The government announced last week that schools may begin to reopen from the beginning of June for selected year groups. Does this mean a return to normal could be on the horizon?
The government have said that children in Reception Year, Year 1 and Year 6 may begin returning to school from June 1st. Many are wondering if this means all of our children will be back to school before the end of the summer term.
At present, this seems unlikely. Many state schools have written to parents to say that with new guidelines for social distancing they may not have the capacity to allow all children in those three year groups to return to school safely. As well as this, any children who do return to school will not be returning to a wholly familiar environment. Instead there may be measures such as staggered start and end times to the school day to avoid large crowds, very different classroom routines and practices, and perhaps even a different curriculum to what would be expected.
This week nine education unions came together to present a joint statement urging the government to reconsider reopening schools at all. The National Education Union has gone so far as to advise its members not to engage with any process of planning for children to return to schools. The general secretary of the EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, has said there are concerns around the long-term impact of social distancing on children, and has suggested that exams scheduled for next academic year should also be cancelled.
The idea has also been mooted by Education secretary Gavin Williamson that retired teachers and new graduates could be asked to run summer schools in order to help children catch up on missed education. Others have suggested a return to a more coursework based syllabus rather than the current exam led model, is the only way to allow children to gain qualifications in the current climate.
Of course, schools in other parts of the world have begun to reopen and these can be used as a model and guide for the UK. In Denmark primary schools began to reopen in mid April. This article details how things have gone and the changes that have been made.
Whatever happens next, the one thing we know for sure is that things will not be back to "normal” in schools for a long while yet.