We are this week all facing up to a raft of measures and advice designed to ease some of the lockdown restrictions.
In the education sector, we had Boris Johnson’s announcement on Sunday evening, the 60-page report that followed a day later and then more guidance from the Department for Education on Monday evening.
As I write this, on the morning of Tuesday 12th May, a little over 12 hours after receiving that DfE guidance, an action plan to return full-time traditional education to hundreds of primary school children is beginning.
Do we know what social distancing in a primary school looks like? Not yet. But every senior leader in every one of our primary schools is working closely with their staff – and others within Unity Schools Partnership – to ensure we are ready to fulfill this Government “ambition”.
To be clear, Monday 1st June – the date issued by Boris Johnson for the return of nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils – is the guide, rather than the definite.
It is something we must all work towards, but we don’t yet know what 9am on the first day of June will look like.
The expectation is that each primary school will be in a position to offer full-time education and already I am seeing some exceptional planning around reduced class sizes and promoting social distancing, in and out of the classroom.
But to be clear, the safety of our pupils and staff is paramount. We recognise that parents of children in reception classes and in Years 1 and 6 may be anxious about what schools partially reopening will mean and we will welcome their thoughts on our plans as they emerge in the coming week.
Unity Schools Partnership, and all our member schools, of course want to see our children return to school – but only when it is safe to do so.
In addition, our primary schools will continue to provide the same high level of distance learning to those pupils who do not fall into the priority year groups listed above.
These are challenging times, but I am again in awe of the hard work, commitment and ingenuity of everyone within our profession.
Alongside all these plans, we have our secondary schools. I think it is fair to say there was a some disappointment that the Government’s educational plans did not extend to older pupils, except for some proposed face-to-face contact with students in Year 10 and Year 12.
But that disappointment soon turned into a renewed pursuit to continue to offer our secondary school students the best possible education and support – remotely, for now.
Tim Coulson, Chief Executive, Unity Schools Partnership