Coronavirus: Primary pupils could be sent to different nearby schools under latest lockdown guidance

Children could be sent to different schools if their classrooms are not properly set up to cope with coronavirus.

Under new lockdown rules announced by the government, primary school pupils in England may have to go somewhere else when schools reopen.

On Monday, the government said it expects children to be able to return to nurseries and childcare settings, and for reception, year one and year six pupils to be back in school from 1 June at the earliest. Hundreds of thousands of parents say they want more choice over the issue.

Under the easing of England’s lockdown, primary school class sizes should be limited to 15 pupils, desks should be spaced as far apart as possible and outdoor space should be utilised, the government’s new guidance says.

However, where a school cannot provide such a scenario, pupils could be sent somewhere else.

Primary schools have been closed except for the children of key workers (Getty Images)

“Any setting that cannot achieve these small groups at any point should discuss options with their local authority or trust,” said the advice from the Department for Education (DfE).

“This might be because there are not enough classrooms or spaces available in the setting or because they do not have enough available teachers or staff to supervise the groups.

“Solutions might involve children attending a nearby school.”

Primary schools could reopen from the beginning of June under the government's plans. (Getty Images)
Pupils could be moved to another primary school if their classroom setting cannot adhere to coronavirus guidelines. (Getty Images)

The government says primary school classes should be split in half, with no more than 15 pupils per small group and one teacher, and that children should be kept in groups two metres away from others.

But the government has not recommended that children and teachers wear face masks, despite saying people should do so on public transport and in some shops.

The guidelines say schools should stagger lunch and break times, as well as drop-off and pick-up times, to reduce the number of pupils moving around.

Schools should also consider introducing one-way circulation, or placing a divider down the middle of the corridor, to keep young people apart.

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The advice, published on Monday evening, suggests that nurseries and schools should remove soft furnishings and toys that are hard to clean – and try to keep children in the same small groups at all times each day.

The government’s ambition for all primary school pupils in England to return for a month before the summer was called “reckless” by teaching unions.

More than 450,000 people have signed a Change.org petition urging the government to give parents a choice on sending their children back to school if they reopen.

The government has said families who choose to keep their children at home when schools reopen will not face fines.

But parents will be strongly encouraged to take up these places – unless the child or a family member is shielding, or the child is particularly vulnerable.

The new government guidance says most staff in education settings will not require personal protective equipment when they open up.

But it adds that it should be worn by a supervising adult if a pupil becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in the setting.

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Children and staff are not required to wear a face covering or face mask in schools and early years settings.

The government guidance acknowledges that young pupils will not be able to remain two metres apart from each other and staff.

Instead, primary school classes should be split into groups of no more than 15 pupils per group. These small "consistent" groups will be kept from mixing with other pupils during the day.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson wants primary schools to reopen a month before the summer holidays (AFP via Getty Images)

Schools, colleges and nurseries closed seven weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak, remaining open only for vulnerable youngsters and the children of key workers.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Nothing can replace being in the classroom, which is why I want to get children back to school as soon as it is safe to do so.

"The latest scientific advice indicates it will be safe for more children to return to school from 1 June, but we will continue to limit the overall numbers in school and introduce protective measures to prevent transmission.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued its own guidance on when schools should be allowed to reopen.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said the government's aim for all primary school children to return to school for a month before the summer was not "a feasible scenario".

He said: "The availability of school staff, the sheer number of pupils and the sizes of school classrooms and corridors combined with the need for social distancing measures mean that the government's calculations simply don't add up.

"It seems wildly optimistic, to the point of being irresponsible, to suggest that we will be in a position to return all primary children to school within the next seven weeks."

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