Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Sunday the Government’s second phase of easing lockdown and indicated that schools could be reopened as early as June 1. The Government has said the return to school will be gradual, and done in a “phased” manner, rather than sending everyone back at the same time. But for those parents who are uncomfortable with their children potentially returning to school so early, do you have to send your children to school?
Do I have to send my children to school?
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said schools will not reopen until scientific advice indicates it is safe to do so.
Rates of coronavirus deaths in the UK remain stable, but it has become clear healthy children contract the infection at a much lower rate than older people or those with compromised immune systems.
Plans to ease lockdown rules include allowing pupils from Reception, Year One and Year Six back to school by June, with smaller class sizes reportedly planned for those at key stages of development.
Asked whether parents would be punished for keeping their children at home if they felt it was still unsafe, the Government said this would not be the case.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “The short answer is, no they won’t [be fined].
“While we will not penalise parents for keeping children at home once they are eligible to return to school, we will strongly encourage them to do so.”
The Government’s plan said the ambition is for all primary school children to be back in the classroom for at least one month before the summer holidays “if feasible”.
Officials have stressed, however, this decision will be constantly kept under review.
Mr Williamson added: “It is important to support those children who are going to be facing GCSEs next year as well as A-Levels, B-Techs and other qualifications in years 10 and 12.
“We want all those children in those year groups to go into school to speak with their teachers.
“Their teachers make an assessment of what learning and support they need to have over the following weeks as we approach the summer holidays.
“But also making sure they set the work at the right level, so through the summer holidays children can benefit from learning through those six weeks.”
The Education Secretary added the MP was correct to point out the “many volunteers, many thousands of volunteers that want to reach out, help our children, in order to be able to have the knowledge to succeed in the future”.
Nine unions representing school leaders, teachers and support staff, have told the Government to ‘step back’ from plans to open schools on June 1.
The joint statement published by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) warns teaching staff “will not be protected” by social distancing if primary school reopen to more year groups.
The statement says: “We call on the Government to step back from June 1 and work with us to create the conditions for a safe return to schools based on the principles and tests we have set out.”