Schools WILL reopen in two months ‘come what may’ even if the rest of society is locked down, government source insists

  • Primary schools will be able to operate ‘bubbles’ of more than 30 children
  • Schools will reopen in September no matter restriction on other parts of society 
  • Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to unveil plans for full return of schools 

Schools will reopen in September ‘come what may’ – even if other parts of society have to be shut down, a Cabinet source said last night.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will today unveil plans for the full return of schools from the beginning of the academic year.

Public Health England last night signed off proposals for an increase in the current 15-child limit on class sizes.

Primary schools will be able to operate ‘bubbles’ of more than 30 children, allowing the return of full classes.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will today unveil plans for the full return of schools from the beginning of the academic year in September

Secondary schools, where children move between classes, could operate ‘whole year bubbles’ of more than 200 children. Pupils will face staggered start times and will only be permitted to mix within their own ‘bubble’ of peers. They will be required to sit facing the front to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

And schooling will be made compulsory again, with parents facing £60 fines if they fail to send their children to school.

Education sources last night dismissed reports that schools would teach only a limited curriculum for two terms to allow children to catch up in core subjects like maths and English.

The only exception is early years in infant and primary schools where teachers will be able to focus on extra phonics learning if necessary.

‘Schools will be expected to teach the full curriculum,’ a source said. ‘This is a full return – we want all children back at all schools, learning the full curriculum. Yes, there will be differences but they should not impact on education.’

Pupils will face staggered start times and will only be permitted to mix within their own ‘bubble’ of peers. They will be required to sit facing the front to reduce the risk of spreading the virus

Mr Williamson has secured £1billion for a catch-up plan that will allow schools to hire tutors to provide catch-up classes for small groups.

Final sign off for the back-to-school plan will not be given until mid-August, based on an assessment of the state of the epidemic. Although children face only a very low risk from the disease, some scientists fear that the reopening of schools could lead to a significant rise in community transmission of the virus.

But a Cabinet source said ministers were determined to reopen schools in September, even if that meant other parts of society have to be shut down.

‘Schools will reopen in September, come what may,’ the source said.

‘Everyone can see how important it is, not just to children’s education but to the ability of parents to get back to work. Obviously we have to see what happens to the epidemic but the plans are there now for a safe return.

‘Hopefully the virus will continue to decline over the summer. But even if the R-number [the number infected by a carrier] is up near one, I think people are clear that schools have to reopen.

That might mean something else closing in order to keep the overall risk at an acceptable level, but schools have to reopen.’

Ofsted will begin visiting schools again in September and will start full inspections from January. Schools have been warned that they need to have plans in place to teach the whole curriculum remotely if they have to close down temporarily.

Ministers faced a backlash after abandoning a pledge to get all primary children back in class for at least a month before the end of the summer term.

Now they are braced for a battle with the education unions over the details of the plans for a full return in September.

But officials point out that the Government’s Scientific Group for Emergencies has already concluded that teachers are at no higher risk than other professions.

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