Talks of Primary Schools in England to return 1st June.- Sharon Richards
Boris Johnson has indicated that Primary Schools will be a priority when COVID-19 lock down is alleviated and children could return to classrooms as soon as June 1st. Boris stated on Sunday 3rd May that “One of the things we want to do as fast as we can is get certainly primary schools back, it’s not going to be easy but that’s where we want to go. It’s about working out a way to do it.”
The head of Ofsted has concurred with this and said that there is a good deal of logic in targeting the youngest children first. Amanda Spielman stated that younger pupils need routine and from parents’ point of view, youngest children need the most care and oversight. She stated in an interview with Sky, “If you look at the interests of children, it’s very clear that their interests are best served, in the vast majority of cases, by being back at school as soon as possible.”
The Department for Education however, maintain that no date has yet been set for schools in England to reopen. Teaching unions said the government should reveal its assessment of the impact on public health of reopening schools, including the extra fatalities anticipated.
In the week to come, Boris Johnson is expected to outline a plan for a national lifting of some of the lockdown restrictions, with the reopening of schools regarded as important to release more parents back into the workforce.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has said that pupils will return to school in a phased manner when it is safe to do so. Williamson has also asked a subcommittee of the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) to look at the scientific advice on reopening.
Schools are requesting that the government must tell them whether to fine parents who refuse to return children to class after lockdown.
Parents in England however are not wholly behind Boris and are understandably cautious about sending their children back to school so soon in light of the conflicting statements from members of parliament and Ofsted. This leads to the next obvious dilemma; what will happen if parents refuse to send their children back into the classroom?
Head teachers have urged the Government to tell them whether to fine parents who refuse to take their children to school after lock down. Ministers have been urged to clarify whether it will be compulsory or optional for pupils to attend school when it has been opened again for their age group. Ordinarily, children are only allowed to miss school if they are too ill to go in or if they have advance permission from the head teachers. Parents can be issued with £60 fines if their children are absent with no good reason, which doubles to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days. If it is not paid after 28 days, parents face prosecution by their local authority.
This said, it is unclear whether or not schools should record and report absences in the usual way if schools begin their phased return next month.