Cap on classes doubled to 30 and social distancing scrapped to get kids back in school by September
HOPES that all kids could be back in school by September soared tonight with plans to double the pupil “bubble” cap to 30 and scrap social distancing inside classrooms.
Under current rules, class numbers are capped at 15 and social distancing measures leave heads with a logistical nightmare requiring double the teaching space.
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But from the autumn primary school pupils will not be required to keep apart from others in their own “protective bubble”, just stay away from other groups.
One of the first schools to fully reopen in Britain has made passionate calls for others to follow suit — and urged “divisive” unions to get on board.
St Paul’s CofE Primary in Swanley, Kent, welcomed back nearly all of its 111 children on Monday thanks to shrewd social distancing and hygiene measures.
The school’s chiefs put a marquee in their playing field to create extra space — and supplied portaloos and mobile hand washing facilities to keep kids safe.
Different classes are kept apart with their own individual entrances and exits.
And eager children have dived straight back into lessons under strict social distancing rules without hassle.
The return comes in spite of teaching unions pouring scorn over moves to get all kids safely back in class by September.
Headteacher Ben Hulme said tonight: “Schools like us have shown it can be done safely for both children and staff.
“This is a time when unions, schools and headteachers should all be pulling together to get children back in class.
This is a time when unions, schools and headteachers should all be pulling together to get children back in class.
“To be divisive makes it really difficult to get back to some safe normality.
“There have been many reports about how lockdown has affected children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing — and how there’s potential for damage to be done if we don’t move quickly.
“That really spurred us on to get something together — and it’s working very well.
“We’re really pleased to be back and I’d encourage other schools to do the same if they can.”
Under the new plans, the Government aims to form “year group bubbles” in secondary schools.
Classes are kept apart with their own individual entrances and exits[/caption]
Schools like St Paul’s have proven that they can be fully reopened safely[/caption]
Pupil ‘bubbles’ have been doubled to 30[/caption]
This would stop pupils mingling with teenagers from other year groups, while allowing classes to return to their normal size.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson hailed St Paul’s safe and swift return — and called on others to take “full advantage” of the chance to open again.
He told The Sun: “We have given primary schools the flexibility to bring back more children — where they can do so within our protective measures — and it’s fantastic to see some schools taking full advantage of that to maximise their capacity and invite back all pupils.”
PRIORITISING PARTY POLITICS
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, heaped praise on St Paul’s — and urged other schools to follow its lead.
She said: “This is a real achievement and great to see teachers working with parents to get the whole school open safely before the summer break.”
The Government originally pledged to get all primary schools back in action for at least a month before June 22.
But ministers had to ditch the plans over fears that the target would not be met.
Militant unions have been accused of playing politics and stopping kids returning to class, instead of putting their welfare first.
Department for Education data revealed 244,000 pupils were in class last month — down from 8.8 million on a normal school day.
Latest figures show approximately 1.1 million attended school last Thursday — 12.2 per cent of pupils who normally attend.
It was welcome news for millions of parents who have endured three months of lockdown — many juggling full-time jobs with childcare and home-schooling. Secondary schools in England have been allowed to reopen for Years 10, 11 and 12 since June 15.
Nursery and pre-school children, plus pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, started to return on June 1.
But not all schools have reopened fully. Some do not have the staff and others do not have the space.
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Current government guidance for schools does not require kids to socially distance within their bubble, but many schools are ignoring the advice, insisting on all pupils remaining two-metres apart.
The rules planned for September would make clear that social distancing would not be required within bubbles.
Instead, kids will be encouraged to limit contact with each other.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson hailed St Paul’s safe and swift return[/caption]
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