As the Government begins to slowly and cautiously lift some of the restrictions, it hopes to be able to return some pupils to school. This will not happen any earlier than 1 June, and only if the five key tests set by Government justify the changes at the time. Initially, the Government expect children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to return to school, in smaller class sizes. The ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer, if feasible.
For older pupils, the Government hopes to get Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year some face-to-face contact with their teachers, to supplement their remote education. It is unlikely that other secondary pupils will return to school before the summer.
It is important to stress that this is all conditional on the rate of transmission of the virus coming down, and the scientific advice saying it is safe to do so.
The welfare of children and staff is at the heart of all decisions being taken on this issue. The Government is giving schools the detailed guidance and support they need to put appropriate safety measures in place, which include ensuring pupils do not attend if they, or a member of their household, has symptoms of coronavirus, as well as minimising contact and cleaning surfaces more frequently. Class sizes will also be reduced and we will ensure pupils stay within these small, consistent groups, creating a protective bubble around them.
All school staff and children, and their families, will be able to be tested for the virus, meaning that test and trace approach can be taken to any cases which occur.
The decision taken by the Government has been with the best interests of Britain's children in mind. Working parents are being stretched too far by the demands of home schooling and children are not able to access the necessary facilities for their intellectual and personal growth, outside of the classroom. The science backed phased approach, which has been adopted by the Government provides the perfect synthesis between safety and progress. These phased steps would not have been proposed if it were not safe to do so and constituents should rest assured that the scheme is constantly being looked at and fed into by your concerns, so that we can arrive at decisions in complete accordance with the most up to date scientific research.
This phased return is in line with what other European countries are doing to get their own schools, colleges and nurseries back. Taken together, these measures will create an inherently safer system, where the risk of transmission is substantially reduced – for children, their teachers and also their families.