Once again, over the last 24 hours, we have seen further unhelpful speculation in the press from 'anonymous sources' regarding the formal reopening of schools.
Yesterday morning we issued a response. Our comments were covered widely in the press, but in case you missed them, this is what we said:
"Private briefings about senior ministers' responses to coronavirus simply must stop. It is irresponsible and is causing confusion and fear.
"The current frenzy of speculation about schools clearly comes from people outside the education arena, demonstrating a profound misunderstanding of schools and the education context. A return to school is not a matter for debate; it is a question for science.
"Schools stepped up immediately alongside other public services in response to this crisis, not through compulsion, but through a determination to play their part.
"Instructing school leaders and their teams to return without including them in the planning stages or sharing proper safety arrangements would be extremely reckless."
I was pleased to see the secretary of state was quick to respond to the newspaper speculation when he stated yesterday that "no decision has been made on when we will reopen schools. I can reassure schools and parents that they will only reopen when the scientific advice indicates that it is the right time to do so."
Later in the day, at the Downing Street press conference, the secretary of state reiterated that he could not provide a date for when schools would 'reopen', and they will only consider it when the government's five tests have been met. You can read the secretary of state's speech in full here.
I will continue to press the case that, when the time comes, any plans to return need to be properly thought through. As I have said previously, the government cannot expect to 'flick a switch'; there is a long list of practical and logistical considerations as well as the more fundamental safety questions, which I know, are all on our minds. The government must work with the profession to consider all of these.
We will also continue to point out that the use of the word 'reopening' overlooks the fact that thousands of schools currently remain open for children of critical workers and for vulnerable pupils. I was pleased to see the secretary of state acknowledge this point yesterday.
New guidance from the Department for Education
Over the weekend, the Department for Education (DfE) issued a number of updates to its guidance, and we finally saw the long-awaited guidance for special schools published on Sunday evening. Like many of you, we were immensely frustrated by the length of time it took for this to come out.
You may also have seen that on Friday, the DfE published further guidance relating to financial support for schools and early years providers. Within that document, there is information about the circumstances in which schools may be able to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for furloughed workers. This may answer some of the questions schools have in relation to lost private income at this time.
We will monitor the government's updates this week and inform you of any changes. We continue to refresh our FAQs in response to the ever-changing guidance coming from the DfE, so you can easily find the answers to your questions.
First published 20 April 2020