Commenting on this evening’s speech by Prime Minister Boris Johnson setting out the government’s ‘road-map’ out of lock-down, including plans to begin to reopen schools, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, the union which represents leaders in the majority of schools, said:
“We now know a little more about what the government’s ambition is for schools. However without explanation of why or how such a return is considered to be safe, tonight’s announcement will not pass the ‘confidence test’, with parents or school leaders.
“As things stand, there is no prospect of more pupils in schools until 1st June at the earliest. That, at least, gives the Government a small window of time to explain the basis of its decision and what it will do to mitigate the risks. It is essential that this happens in collaboration with the profession.
“The government will need to show some understanding rather than reckless determination if it wants to pass the confidence test. It will all be in vain if many parents still decide to keep their children at home despite the ‘all clear’ from the government.
“School leaders do not want to see classrooms empty for a day longer than they need to be. But there is not a school leader in the land who wants to risk admitting more pupils unless it is perfectly clear that it is safe.
“The Government must not lose sight of the fact that in many cases it may be physically impossible to bring back the number of pupils being suggested and maintain any sense of social distancing, especially in infant schools and small schools.
“Schools are likely to be inundated with questions from anxious parents about what this all means. Our advice is to explain that in the short-term nothing has changed and that further information will be provided in the coming days and weeks once the government has issued more detailed guidance.”
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