Capacity to bring back more pupils is 'limited'

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Many primary schools will have “limited capacity” to bring back more pupils while restricting class sizes to no more than 15 in distinct and consistent groups, but school leaders have still welcomed new flexibility in government guidance.

The Department for Education (DfE) has updated its official guidance for the re-opening of primary schools to more pupils.

The update allows schools to bring more pupils back to school should they have the space and capacity to do so.

It states: “Where schools have capacity, they may choose to welcome back additional pupils.”

It adds: “We know that in some schools, there will be capacity to welcome more children back, in group sizes of no more than 15, before the summer holidays. This may be because take-up among eligible children is lower than expected, or because there is additional space still available within the school and available staff to teach and supervise.

“There is no expectation on primary schools to welcome back additional children where they do not have capacity to do so.”

Schools are told they should only welcome back more pupils once they have made sure as many eligible pupils (Reception, year 1, year 6, vulnerable pupils and key worker children) as possible are attending.

Any expansion must adhere to the protective measures guidance and the school’s own risk assessment.

The guidance adds: “If schools have access to space on other school sites (for example, local secondary schools, if that is feasible alongside the secondary offer) they may use this, taking care to ensure children stay in allocated groups. However, other community buildings (such as village halls) should not be used to expand capacity this term, while they remain closed in line with the government’s roadmap.”

Primary schools can choose which additional pupils to prioritise, the guidance says. It also suggests the potential for having “face-to-face check-ins” with pupils.

It adds: “We know that many primary schools are keen to invite in pupils who are not returning to school at this time for face-to-face meetings, before the end of term. This time can be used to check-in on pupils, and ensure they are supported before a planned return to school from September. Where this happens, this contact needs to be in line with the current guidance on protective measures.”

Secondary schools have also been told that they can bring in additional pupils for face-to-face check-ins should they have the capacity to do this within the protective measures guidance.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the flexibility but warned that “in truth, most schools will have limited capacity to bring back more pupils while restricting class sizes to no more than 15 in distinct and consistent groups”.

He added: “However, some school leaders have indicated that they would like to be able to do this. It is helpful that the government is allowing schools the flexibility to prioritise which children they think will most benefit from time in school, if they are able to offer this.

“We are also pleased that the government has listened to our suggestion that all schools and colleges should be able to invite pupils in for a one-off ‘check in’ session before the end of term. This will help teachers to get a clearer sense of how pupils have found learning from home, to check on their wellbeing, and to plan further teaching.

“However, these changes do not make up for the lack of a long-term, strategic plan for education over the coming months. What we really need is the government to join with the profession as a matter of urgency, in developing a national plan to bring more children back to school as soon as possible, and provide support to help children catch-up with missed learning. We need a coherent strategy both for the immediate future and beyond.”

DfE: Preparing for the wider opening of schools from 1 June, (last updated June 15: www.gov.uk/government/publications/preparing-for-t...


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