CHILDREN may have the opportunity to return to school part-time before the summer vacation as part of plans developed by the ministers.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson plans to allow children of all ages to return to rotation.
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One option would be to let the year groups at a critical time in their studies come back first.
This could include 11-year-olds going from elementary to high school, or students doing GCSE or A levels. Another option is to open primary schools first and secondary schools later.
A source said, “The ministers are determined to give every child the opportunity to return to the classroom in one form or another before the schools close for the summer.”
Williamson told members of the Special Committee on Education, “When we bring the schools back – and I think everyone wants the schools back – they will be phased out.
“We recognize that the idea that all schools come back the first day with the full enrollment of students is not practical.”
He added that schools will not open during the summer vacation to offer remedial classes.
Teachers are on paid leave, many of whom have continued to work for vulnerable and key working children, or to prepare lessons at home.
Williamson has ordered scientists to determine how to reopen schools safely and awaits their responses soon. But there is growing concern that the poorest children will be left behind in the lockout. And education officials fear the situation will worsen over time.
Alarming figures released last week revealed that about one in 100 students eligible to continue attending school in a blocked situation does so.
The deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, told the Downing Street press conference, “I am absolutely sure it was the right thing to do to close the schools when we did.
“Likewise, we now need to be very careful about how and when we reverse social distancing. “
School leaders will have to figure out how to socialize in classrooms while convincing concerned parents that it is safe for them to send their offspring back.
The teachers suggested that the children could alternate their studies, spending a week in class and a week at home, in order to reduce the number of pupils in school at any time. But they warned that it is unrealistic to expect young children at school to be within two meters of each other.
Williamson said the government is looking closely at countries like Germany and Denmark, which have already announced the return of their schools.
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In Denmark, nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools started reopening on April 15.
In Germany, some students have returned for their final exams.
Meanwhile, France reopens schools and crèches from May 11, with classes limited to a maximum of 15. But Italy, one of the hardest hit by the country’s coronavirus, will not reopen schools than in September.
Geoff Barton, secretary general of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was delighted that the return to school appears to be “on a gradual basis.”
He added: “There are different possibilities, including prioritizing certain age groups who are at crucial stages in their education, as well as disadvantaged children from other age groups, or using a rotation system for all students, perhaps with a week of school followed by a week of home learning. “
The sun says
THE damage to our children’s education is a disaster.
It is therefore good to hear the Secretary of Education, Gavin Williamson, plan a gradual or part-time return to schools.
That said, the prospect that older students will have two more full months at home and then summer vacation will scare many of them and their parents.
The weeks have now passed under lockout. While some schools have done admirable work in keeping the students busy, organizing the work and insisting that it be done, others have not.
The gap between the best public and private schools and the others is widening. Disadvantaged and vulnerable children are further delayed day by day.
The overall percentage of students receiving daily online lessons is worrying, according to the educational charity Sutton Trust. And while the children stay at home, their parents cannot go to work even if they are allowed to.
It hammers the economy.
Meanwhile, the mental health record of young people is grim, locked up with their families – and with their peers available only online, if at all.
We know the government is worried about relaxing the restrictions, especially as Germany plans to re-impose them. And Mr. Williamson rightly insists that he will be guided by science. But the science is ambiguous.
A University College London study found that school closings had little impact on the spread of the virus.
Norway opened its primaries. Switzerland does the same and lets children under 10 kiss their grandparents because their scientists “know that young children do not transmit the virus”.
Our government is of course doing what it thinks best. But he must continue to challenge our experts on the reasons why their evidence conflicts with that elsewhere.
The urgent need to save our economy also applies to the education of our children.
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Mary Bousted, secretary general of the National Education Union, said she was “relieved” that the schools would not be open during the summer vacation.
She added, “When the scientific evidence allows a return to school, great preparation will be required.
“The issues such as how social distancing can be achieved and which age groups may be first during the gradual return are extremely complex.”
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