Minister for the cabinet office Michael Gove has said there will be a “staged and careful return” for students across primary schools in England next month.
Acknowledging that “you can never eliminate risk”, Gove insisted that the situation was stable enough for schools to reopen with smaller class sizes and staggered arrivals while featuring on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
This weekend, Labour’s Angela Rayner implored the government to publish scientific guidance to see schools through the scheduled reopening, insisting that adequate tracking and tracing measures would reassure parents who are still coping with the impact of COVID-19.
The move follows the nationwide digital transition implemented in response to the crisis, which sought to minimise the disruption to students’ education. With schools being ordered to close indefinitely from the afternoon of March 20, schools, colleges, universities and other education providers have been delivering classes via remote learning methods for the last two months.
Supported by the British Medical Association, UK teaching unions have voiced their concerns for student safety following Gove’s announcement.
The NEU has laid out five steps the government should meet before schools can reopen safely, which include regular testing, protection for vulnerable staff and implementing a national plan for social distancing.
In his appearance on the show, Gove – the UK’s former education secretary – emphasised that while the government can not guarantee that students and teachers will not contract the virus, the UK can “learn” from the schools reopening in other European countries, such as Denmark.
“The only way ever to ensure that you never catch coronavirus is to stay at home completely,” Gove told Andrew Marr. “But there is always, always, always, in any loosening of these restrictions, a risk of people catching the virus.
“You can never eliminate the risk. It is the case that it is extremely unlikely that any school is likely to be the source of a COVID outbreak.”
All going to plan, the government hopes children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will return to schools across England as early as June 1.
You might also like: 69% of teachers think parents could do more to support their child’s remote learning