Overcrowding concerns at district's schools as pupils told to prepare for return

Headteachers at England’s thousands of overcrowded primary schools will face even greater hurdles to reopening, education unions have warned.

Saturday, 30th May 2020, 7:00 am
Headteachers at Englands thousands of overcrowded primary schools will face even greater hurdles to reopening, education unions have warned.Stock image.

Primaries are due to open their doors next week, with children taught in groups of up to 15 and desks spaced further apart.

But with one in six English primaries over capacity, unions warn many simply will not have the space to reopen.

In Wakefield 19 per cent of primary schools and six per cent of secondary schools are over capacity.

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A UK government spokesperson said the “welfare of children and staff has been at the heart of all decision-making”.

Government plans for a phased return of pupils from June 1, beginning with selected year groups, have sparked a bitter row with unions. A growing list of local authorities have refused to reopen their primaries.

More than 2,700 English primaries were over capacity last year, the latest year for which figures are available, analysis by JPIMedia Data of Government data shows.

While schools have remained open for certain pupils, such as the children of key workers, the National Education Union (NEU) said it would be “impossible” for many oversubscribed schools to open more widely while adhering to the new guidance.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary, said: “The Government’s current guidance for the wider opening of schools fails to address the necessity of social distancing.

“It is quite clear classes of 15 are impossible for many schools on grounds of space alone.

This situation will clearly be exacerbated in those schools that are over capacity. We all want some sort of normality back in our lives but the NEU believes the wider opening of schools should only occur when we see the scientific evidence that says it is safe to do so.”

As of yet there have been no concrete dates on when schools will return in Northern Ireland and Scotland. It is expected, however, that schools will have a phased return after the summer holidays.

The Department for Education said: “Plans for a cautious, phased return of some year groups from June 1, at the earliest, are based on the best scientific and medical advice.

“The welfare of children and staff has been at the heart of all decision-making.”