Commenting on the publication of the government's guidance on children returning to schools in September, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said:
"We have known for some weeks that the government’s ambition is to get all pupils back to school in September. This is an ambition that NAHT supports. Every school leader wants to see all pupils return to school as soon as it is safe to do so.
"Today government has indicated that it believes that it will be safe for all pupils to return at the start of the autumn term. This represents the most significant moment for schools since the partial national closure was announced in late March.
"The long-awaited guidance, released this morning, now gives school leaders a degree of clarity about how the government would like schools to achieve their ambition.
"What is clear is that school will continue to look and feel different for the foreseeable future. This will certainly not represent a return to normality for pupils, parents or staff.
"Whilst a model of larger group sizes is perhaps the only feasible way to get all pupils back to school on a full-time basis, no-one should underestimate the scale of the challenge school leaders will now face in making these plans work in practice, especially in secondary schools. Significant time will now need to be spent implementing the new measures government is asking schools to take.
"Throughout the current crisis, school leaders have demonstrated a remarkable ability to transform their schools and adapt to the latest guidance, there is no doubt that they will be able to do so again.
"Today’s announcement represents government’s plan A for a full return in September. The situation seen in Leicester this week has demonstrated that this crisis is far from over, and there will be further disruption ahead. It is therefore essential that government continues to monitor the data when it comes to school return and that it also has a credible plan B in place should it be required."
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