CHILDREN could be given the chance to go back to school part-time before the summer holidays under plans being drawn up by ministers.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is considering allowing kids of all ages to return on a rota basis.
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One option would be to let year groups at a crunch moment in their studies back first.
This could include 11 year-olds moving from primary school to secondary, or pupils doing GCSEs or A Levels. Another option is opening primary schools first and secondary schools later.
A source said: “Ministers are determined to give every child the chance to get back into the classroom in some form before schools break up for summer.”
Mr Williamson told MPs at the Education Select Committee: “When we bring schools back — and I think everyone wants to see schools returning — they will be returned in a phased manner.
“We recognise that the idea of schools all returning on day one with the full complement of pupils is not practical.”
He added schools will not open through the summer holidays to offer catch-up classes.
Teachers are due holidays, with many having carried on working for vulnerable and key worker children, or preparing home-school lessons.
Mr Williamson has ordered scientists to work out how to reopen schools safely and expects their answers soon. But there are growing fears poorer kids are being left behind in the lockdown. And education chiefs worry that will become worse the longer it goes on.
Alarming figures released last week revealed only around one in every 100 pupils eligible to keep going to school in the lockdown are actually doing so.
Deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam told Downing Street press conference: “I am absolutely clear that it was the right thing to do to close schools when we did.
“Equally we now have to be very careful indeed about how we reverse social distancing measures and when we do it.”
School bosses will have to work out how to impose social distancing in classrooms while convincing worried parents it is safe for them to send their offspring back.
Teachers have suggested that kids could alternate their schooling, spending one week in class and one week at home, to slash the number of pupils in school at any one time. But they have warned that it is unrealistic to expect small kids in school to stay two metres away from each other.
Mr Williamson said the Government is looking closely at countries like Germany and Denmark, who 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 pupils have headed back for their final exams.
Meanwhile France is reopening schools and creches from May 11, with classes limited to a maximum of 15. But Italy, one of the country’s hardest hit by coronavirus, is not reopening schools until September.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he is pleased the return of schools looks like being done in a “phased manner”.
He added: “There are various possibilities, including prioritising some year groups who are at crucial stages in their education, as well as disadvantaged children from other year groups, or using a rota system for all pupils, perhaps with one-week in school followed by one-week learning from home.”
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Mary Bousted, general secretary of the National Education Union, said she was “relieved” schools will not be opening in the summer holidays.
She added: “When the scientific evidence allows for a return to school, a great deal of preparation will be needed.
“Issues such as how social distancing can be achieved and which year groups might be first during the phased return are extremely complex.”
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