As a result of the huge efforts everyone has made to adhere to strict social distancing measures, the transmission rate of Coronavirus has decreased and schools in Old Bexley and Sidcup are starting to prepare for a phased return of children.
With further progress, it is hoped that primary schools can soon welcome back children. 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.
The intent is to get all children and young people back into education as soon as the scientific advice allows because it is the best place for them to learn, and because we know how important it is for their mental well-being to have social interactions with their peers, carers and teachers. Children returning to educational and childcare settings in greater numbers will also allow more families to return to work. I also note the recent comments of the Children's Commissioner that schools should re-open as soon as possible because of the impact on the education of disadvantaged children in particular.
The Government is therefore gradually increasing the numbers of children and young people attending schools and colleges. This decision is based on the latest scientific advice. By returning pupils gradually, settings can initially reduce the number of children and young people in classrooms compared to usual and put protective measures in place to reduce risks.
The Government have published guidance for parent and carers about the reopening of schools, guidance to assist schools and teachers to prepare for the return of pupils, as well as publishing the science and evidence which has informed the Government’s approach.
The increased re-opening of schools is conditional on the rate of transmission of the virus coming down, and the scientific advice saying it is safe to do so.