The question of whether schools would be going back after half-term on June 1 has been thrown about for the last couple of weeks now, with some parents and teachers anxious about their children returning to school. So, which schools are reopening next month?
The government has previously said that it wanted some years of primary schools to being reopening, along with nursery and reception, from June 1 with other years joining soon after. The plan for years one and six of primary school to return to school was to ensure that children are in school for one month before the summer holidays, but it did come with the condition that the government’s tests for lifting the lockdown would be met before this date.
However, with June 1 less than two weeks away some local authorities and primary schools have electively chosen to go against the government’s plan of opening schools again, saying that they would not be able to meet the guidelines for lifting the lockdown. They also cite reasons such as unsafe working conditions for staff and not being able to successfully ensure that social distancing in schools would work.
Which schools (in which local authorities) are reopening in June?
The Guardian reports that up to 1,500 primary schools in England will stay closed on June 1, after it was confirmed that the government wouldn’t give sanctions to the schools that chose to remain closed.
Speaking to reporters, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “We are continuing to work closely with teachers, schools and the unions, as we have done for the past eight weeks, and remain keen to hear any concerns they may have.
“We are preparing for the possible opening of schools for more children from 1 June at the earliest, but that will only happen if it’s safe to do so. But we do also have to bear in mind the harm which can be done to children by missing out on important education.”
The spokesman also said that the government was choosing to work alongside councils that refuse to open, “in a consultative way in order to be able to open schools to more pupils in a way that is safe.”
This comes after waves of criticism from unions, parents and teachers alike, many of who have argued that although they want their children to return to school, it shouldn’t happen until it’s safe to do so.
The councils whose primary schools will likely remain closed are:
- Barking and Dagenham
- Brighton and Hove
More councils are expected to join the group on Wednesday, with Manchester council having already said that their schools will “work at their own pace” to resume normality. While councils such as Bristol, Southampton and Newcastle have left it to the individual schools to decide when they will go back, based on their own risk assessments.
In total, 153 local authorities have expressed concern at the government’s guidance that schools should open from June 1, however, many have not urged their schools to reject the return date.
What are the government doing about it?
Since many councils have announced concerns over primary schools reopening on June 1, the government appear to have backtracked slightly on the idea.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland hinted that the government might reconsider the June 1 start date. On Wednesday this week he said, “We’ve got to listen to what we are being told and also engage and persuade and to make sure the necessary arrangements are in place. The government always said that we hoped that 1 June would be the date. It was conditional.”
He also said that schools would not reopen in the same way across England in June, if they were to open.
The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers followed this by saying that the idea of returning schools returning on a fixed date was disappearing. He said instead, “What is needed now is local flexibility to determine when it is right for schools to open up to more pupils.”
The governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have not set a date for their schools to return yet.