30/06/20

Returning to school in September will involve entire year groups staying in separate ‘bubbles’ of up to 240 pupils, according to recent reports.

A draft of the 16-point government plan, published by the Huffington Post, includes social distancing measures, suspended inspections, curriculum expectations and attendance fines.

The proposals range from compulsory to advisory measures that headteachers should deploy to make schools safe for a ‘full-return’.

Schools in England will be expected to have staggered start and finish times, along with measures to keep pupils apart during breaktimes and lunchtimes.

This term primary school ‘bubbles’ have been limited to 15 pupils, but in the plans for autumn, they are expected to be a full class of 30 pupils.

For larger schools, this means that up to eight classes of 30 pupils will be kept in the same protective ‘bubble’, in an attempt to allow subject teachers to move between classes.

Guidance for Headteachers

  • No in-class social distancing requirement for primary pupils, with secondary pupils advised to stay 1m apart but not at all times.
  • Teachers advised to keep 2m away from pupils, at the front of the class, and away from colleagues as much as possible as if in a supermarket.
  • Schools advised against routine temperature tests of pupils as it is “not a reliable method” for identifying coronavirus.
  • Compulsory engagement with the NHS Test and Trace system, with whole classes or year groups liable to be sent home if a pupil tests positive, but whole school closure not seen as generally necessary.
  • No face coverings for pupils or teachers, on Public Health England advice, as they “interfere” with teaching and learning.
  • Children seated facing forwards in same direction and not at circular tables, with pupils wearing normal uniform and washing hands throughout the day.
  • Teachers advised to spend no more than 15 minutes at any one time closer than 1m to anyone.
  • Fines of up to £120 for parents whose children fail to attend school. In contrast with the “softly softly” approach taken during full lockdown the message will be “education is not optional”.
  • “Robust” measures will be taken to engage with families where children had been persistently absent prior to the pandemic or who have not engaged with school regularly during the pandemic.
  • Heads told not to put in any staff rota or physical distancing that would require extra space or make it impossible for all pupils to return full-time.
  • Contingency plans for some or all of the school being put in local lockdown and any temporary return to “remote” teaching needing to be of a high quality.
  • Some subjects for some or all pupils may have to be suspended for two terms to allow catch-up on core subjects such as English and maths, with a full spread of subjects returning in the summer term of of 2021.
  • Some pupils may have to drop some GSCEs altogether in Year 11 to allow them to catch up and achieve better grades in English and maths. GCSEs and A-levels to take place as planned next summer but with some “adaptations”.
  • First year pupils at secondary school may have to be re-taught English and maths from their final year syllabus at primary level.
  • A new focus on tackling “persistently disruptive” pupils because increased poor behaviour is seen as more “likely” due to a lack of regular schooling and discipline in lockdown.
  • Routine Ofsted inspections will remain suspended for the autumn term but inspectors will visit a sample of schools to discuss how they are resuming classroom teaching.

The full guidance to state and private school headteachers is set to be released on Thursday, with the caveat that a “full return” of all pupils will be reconfirmed on August 11 after the latest Covid-19 data is considered.