On Sunday 10th May the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, set out the government’s “route-map” for bringing everyone out of lockdown. There were an awful lot of ifs, buts and maybes and a great deal of ambiguity in what he announced especially around the re-opening of schools.
On Monday 11th May the Government published its 60 page UK Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy(Roadmap) while the Department for Education (DfE) published two documents that clarified some of the issues from the speech but still left a great deal of questions unanswered.
In the first of my updates I outline what the “Roadmap” for schools looks like.
The UK Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy
Phase one – now
The document reiterates that schools should be open to support our most vulnerable children and young people and those of our critical workers. Approximately 2% of all children and young people are attending school at the moment but the government obviously believe this should be higher.
There is a large societal benefit from vulnerable children, or the children of critical workers,
attending school: local authorities and schools should therefore urge more children who would
benefit from attending in person to do so
The Government also believes that now is the time to allow paid childcare to tak4e place as long as they are able to meet the public health principles.
The Government is also amending its guidance to clarify that paid childcare, for example nannies
and childminders, can take place subject to being able to meet the public health principles because these are roles where working from home is not possible. This should enable more working parents to return to work.
I am not sure how you are able to carry out personnel care on somebody else’s young child whilst keeping socially distant or how you keep four children under four away from each other.
Phase two – Possibly 1st June
The second phase in relation to primary schools is that they need to prepare and begin planning for the opening of their school to a wider cohort from 1st June.
A phased return for early years settings and schools. Schools should prepare to begin to open for more children from 1 June. The Government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes, from this point. This aims to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers.
Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, in support of their continued remote, home learning.
I can fully understand the reasoning behind Year 6 returning as this will give schools time to support their transition to secondary education. I hope that secondary schools will open their doors to ensure all students but especially those with SEND get an opportunity to visit their new school and meet their new teachers. It also means that Year 6 pupils can leave there primary school and say their good-bye’s to staff and students. Unfortunately it is unlikely that the end of year disco or trip to Alton Towers will be able to take place. I am sure schools will find alternative activities to make those final days memorable.
We also have to consider here those schools who are working within the three-tier system – first and middle schools – the cohorts leaving them will not be Year 6 so maybe this policy needs additional thinking!
My other concern, which is the same as anyone who has worked in education as long as I have is how on earth do you get 4 to 6 year olds keep at a 2 metre distance not just in the classroom but in the bathrooms, the corridors, the dining hall and the playground? It will be a minor miracle if a school does manage to do this.
Do the Government know how many children within this age group are not toilet trained especially pupils with SEND who are going to require a great deal of personal care.
I know that the scientific evidence is that young children do not appear to catch the virus in the same away as adults they can still be carriers. Staff working with this age group, are going to require PPE to ensure their own safety.
We are now hearing that when and if schools do open there should be no more than 15 in a classroom. I am not sure that some primary classrooms will be big enough if the 2 metre rule is applied. Dinner halls will have to start serving lunches at 11.00 and might finish at home time if they are lucky – there is a lot of planning to do before schools are safe to open.
Once the specified year groups are back in school the Government’s ambition is to see all primary children back in school for the final month of the summer term.
The Government’s ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible, though this will be kept under review.
The Department of Education will engage closely with schools and early year’s providers to develop further detail and guidance on how schools should facilitate this.
I am not sure how feasible this is if we have to continue to social distance and keep the two metre space between each pupil and member of staff. For those pupils who have one-to-one support this is going to be especially tricky.
There does appear to have been any consideration currently for special schools unless they are expected to work within the same guidelines but for many of our more complex children and young people who require personal, medical and feeding interventions social distancing will be impossible.
A number of organisations have updated their information following the publication of the “Roadmap” – you might like to read the following: