LONDON, UK — Secondary schools will begin to reopen from June 15 so students can start preparing for exams next year, the Prime Minister announced on Sunday.
Boris Johnson told the daily Downing Street press conference that some primary school pupils will return from June 1 “as planned”, while older students in Years 10 and 12 will begin going back two weeks later.
Mr Johnson said the phased return of schools was “crucial” for children, and that all classrooms will be fully reopened by September “at the latest”, despite conceding that social distancing would be a challenge for primary school pupils.
Mr Johnson said secondary school students will return to staggered lunch times and smaller classes in an effort to reduce the risk of transmission.
“The education of children is crucial for their welfare, for their long-term future and for social justice,” he said. “We want to start getting our children back into the classroom in a way that is as manageable and as safe as possible. We said we would begin with early years settings, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in primary schools.
“We then intend from June 15 for secondary schools to provide some contact for Year 10 and Year 12 students to help them to prepare for exams next year, with up to a quarter of these students in at any point.”
The announcement was welcomed by a teaching union as recognition that not all primary schools could open on June 1. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The reality is that many schools will need to phase back eligible pupils, and there will be a great deal of variability across the country.
“We welcome the decision to push back Year 10 and 12 students and the clarification about the number of students at any one time.”
However, the National Education Union, the country’s biggest teaching union, said it did not support the plans.
Mr Johnson’s latest announcement follows weeks of stand-off between the Government, teaching unions and local authorities over whether it is safe to send pupils back to school.
Analysis by The Telegraph shows that 60 per cent of the 51 councils opposing the Government’s June 1 return date for primary schools are Labour-controlled, compared with 20 per cent which are run by the Conservatives. The remaining 20 per cent have no overall control or are run by the Lib Dems.
While many of the local authorities advising against reopening classrooms are in northern cities, numerous London Labour councils have signalled dissent, despite recent calculations from Public Health England that the capital’s R rate is now 0.4. Despite the reduced transmission risk, councils in Islington, Greenwich, and Barking and Dagenham have all advised against the June 1 restart date.