education

Schools could see staggered return with primaries reopening first


Schools in areas of the country with lower infection rates may also reopen before places still considered coronavirus hotspots (Picture: Getty Images)

Ministers are considering a ‘phased return’ of pupils which would see primary schools and key exam years going back first.

Schools in areas of the country with lower infection rates may also reopen before places still considered coronavirus hotspots.

Department of Education insiders have revealed the potential plans to the Sun, insisting schools will be ‘the first’ thing to reopen as the third national lockdown is eased.

It comes as education leaders warned reopening schools even after the Easter holidays would be ‘optimistic’, as ministers were said to be rethinking the post-February half-term start.

And prime minister Boris Johnson is now coming under increasing pressure to reveal a ‘route map’ to give parents, pupils and staff ‘clarity’ as to when schools will be reopening and what it will look like.

But it is understood the Government is looking at ‘all options’ to reopen classrooms, provided Covid-19 infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths have dropped enough.

It is suggested primary schools could reopen first because remote learning is much more difficult for younger years, and much of their development relies on interaction with other pupils. They are also much less likely to get ill from coronavirus.

The Department for Education is also considering a staggered return of secondary schools so Year 10 and Year 12 children, who have exams next year, can go back first.

It is understood the Government is looking at ‘all options’ to reopen classrooms (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)
A staggered return of secondary schools, so Year 10 and Year 12 children can go back first, is being considered (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

A Government source told the Times over the weekend the nation is expected to remain in the current home-schooling set-up ‘for the long haul’ amid fears over new Covid-19 variants.

The virus mutation is believed to be up to 70% more infectious and 30% more deadly than other strains.

But education secretary Gavin Williamson could make an announcement today, as he will appear in the House of Commons to be quizzed about the return of schools.

He previously stated parents would have at least two weeks’ notice before classrooms reopen, meaning everyone would need to find out by the end of this week if schools were to return after the February half-term.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast on Sunday, Education Select Committee chairperson Robert Halfon called on Mr Johnson to set out a clear pathway for getting children back in school.

He said: ‘I’m urging clarity for parents, children, teachers and support staff as to what the Government plans are because there’s enormous uncertainty.

‘What I want the Government to do is set out a route map and what I mean by that is set out what the conditions need to be before children can go back to school more fully.’

Asked if schools should reopen while infection rates remain high, Mr Halfon added: ‘Perhaps you might have a situation whereby in areas where the coronavirus is low you would have schools open in those areas, you might have a phased opening. But we need to be told about these plans.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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