Commenting on the Prime Minister’s decision to reduce social distancing to a 1 metre minimum and for the full reopening of schools to all pupils in September, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“The NEU is of course in favour of all children being back in school, but even with a one-metre rule that will need more teachers and more spaces.
“It is not clear whether in less than three months the science will permit classes of 30. If social distancing of one metre remains in place, that will still be difficult for schools. Class sizes are already at record highs in secondary schools, but the current situation calls for groups around half that size.
"This is not just important for social distancing but to ensure that children get the increased one-to-one attention that is so essential to getting through the trauma of the pandemic, and back into normal learning and social interaction.
“Mathematics dictate that for this we need extra class spaces and extra teachers for the vast majority of schools. Government must support local authorities in making available public buildings, and encourage teachers who have left the profession, often due to excessive workload, to return.
“The NEU recently wrote to the Prime Minister with its 10-point recovery plan, which sets out our recommendations for building back from Coronavirus. (1)
“Employers and school leaders have been thinking through the implications of social distancing in their school for many months. One would be forgiven for thinking the Government has not. For a safe return what we need to be hearing from the Prime Minister is not just hope, but pragmatism and a detailed, thought-through, strategic plan for schools based on the scientific evidence available.
"We will wait and see what the Department for Education guidance on making a full return in September possible looks like and will examine it carefully for its clarity and operability.
“It is now more vital than ever that Boris Johnson and Gavin Williamson listen to the profession so that parents, teachers and pupils can be reassured that a return to school is as safe and as well planned out as possible for the whole school community and wider society.”