I have been contacted by several constituents, including parents, teachers and other school staff, about the plans to reopen schools.
Having been a governor of both a primary and a secondary school, I understand your concern over the return of children to school. However, it has been made very clear by the government that this should be done in a way that is safe for both pupils and staff, in line with the scientific evidence. The government anticipates this could be possible by 1 June. However, schools will only open on that date provided the five key tests set by the government justify the changes, including that the rate of infection is decreasing, and the necessary recovery programmes are in place. To be clear, 1 June is the date for which school leaders have been asked to prepare, not the date on which children will definitely return.
I know that Buckinghamshire Council is in close contact with representatives of headteachers to ensure that schools are equipped to reopen in a safe manner. Furthermore, it is important to remember the benefits that returning to school will bring to children, not least to their mental health. The Children’s Commissioner has stated that “We know there are thousands of vulnerable children who need to be in school. We know that the longer schools are closed the greater the impact will be on social mobility and that many children are really struggling without seeing their friends and the structure that school brings. We need to face the reality that, for a number of reasons, there are hundreds of thousands of children who can’t access meaningful education at home.” The impact of this on children and early years’ development cannot be overestimated.
In addition, the Children's Commissioner has stated “The decision to bring back children from Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 first is sensible, as these are the year groups who need to be in school most urgently.”
Undoubtedly there will need to be changes to the way classes operate, but I have confidence that our school leaders and teachers have the skill to adapt, learning from the experiences of other countries where schools have already reopened. In this way, we can ensure children receive the education they need and deserve, in a safe environment for them and for school staff.
The government's guidance for parents and carers for opening schools and educational settings to more pupils from 1 June can be found here.