97% of schools plan to welcome back all pupils full-time – union


Almost 100% of schools plan to welcome back all pupils full-time at the start of the autumn term, figures suggest.

In the 3% of cases where schools are not doing this, it is because they are planning transition periods for new pupils or phasing entry to alleviate pupils’ anxieties, according to the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

The school leaders’ union conducted a survey with a week to go before the first day of term and more than 4,000 school leaders responded – 4,090 in total, mostly in England, with 143 in Wales.

The NAHT data shows that 96% are organising regular additional cleaning of classrooms and school premises, 96% are creating and maintaining pupil bubble groups, 93% are staggering lunchtimes and break times, and 87% are staggering start and finish times for pupils.

The data also suggests that 83% are installing signs to direct pupils and parents and 79% are installing additional hand-washing or hand sanitation units.

Cassie Buchanan, headteacher of the Charles Dickens Primary School in Southwark, London, said “lots of measures” had been introduced ahead of children returning.

She told the PA news agency: “The first one is social bubbles. That means the children will be in a consistent group of other children and adults throughout the school day.

“And to make that happen we have also put in place staggered play times, drop-offs, lunches and collection times.

“We have also introduced enhanced hygiene, and that means we will be washing our hands more frequently through the day and reminding children how to blow their noses hygienically.”

Tables and chairs spaced out for social distancing at the Charles Dickens Primary School in London
Tables and chairs spaced out for social distancing at the Charles Dickens Primary School in London

She said the school had also sought to reassure parents who had been a “little bit worried” about their children returning.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said the union’s figures showed that school leaders and their teams had worked “incredibly hard” over summer to get schools ready for the autumn term.

He added: “We know that parents and families want their children to return, but we also know that confidence is a fragile thing.

“The long list of Government delays, U-turns and uncertainty has not helped matters in the slightest, but school leaders and their teams have stuck to their task. They are the ones providing the stability for parents right now.”

In an appeal to parents and carers, Mr Whiteman said: “Please do not let the very public political difficulties and arguments cloud your confidence in schools.

“School leaders and their teams have continued to do all that has been asked of them.

“With co-operation and understanding between home and school, we can achieve the very best return possible despite the political noise.”

Mr Whiteman also called on the Government to provide clear guidance ahead of any possible local lockdowns.

He said: “You don’t need a crystal ball to see that local restrictions will be a feature of the autumn and winter.

“We’ve already seen them happening in a few areas of the UK. All we’re asking the Government to do is to meet us halfway.

“We’ve done everything we can to get ready but we can’t have any more last-minute plans.

“Last-minute contingencies have caused chaos so far, but a credible, widely publicised and well understood set of alternatives for schools in the event of lockdown will not only give us something to work with but will also help to reassure any families that are still nervous about coming back on day one.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Getting all children back into classrooms is a national priority, and these findings shine a light on the brilliant work going on across the country to make sure our schools are ready.

“I want to thank all of the headteachers, teachers and school staff for everything they are doing to ensure children can get back into their classes safely when the new term starts.”