ONE million parents could be back at work next week after the Government told schools that younger pupils can return from Monday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed it is safe for all Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children – around 2.1 million youngsters – to go back to their classrooms on June 1.
If they all returned it would allow 3.8 percent of the total workforce in England to get back to work, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Mark Lehain, director of the new Campaign for Common Sense, welcomed the reopening of schools.
He said: “It’s great for the education of children, as well as the one million parents that will be able to work more easily with their kids back in the classroom.
“Given the anxious time we live in, the safe return to school is another important and reassuring step towards some kind of normality.”
There are up to 680,000 families across England which could expect all of their children to return to school – 17.5 percent of all families with primary or early years-aged children.
The PM also said secondary schools will open to Years 10 and 12 on June 15.
But he and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson are coming up against strong resistance from teaching unions.
The National Association of Head Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers are against the move.
More than 50 councils are also refusing to allow local education authority schools to reopen or are allowing head teachers to make their own decision.
That is despite a review of 47 separate scientific studies which found children to be at very low risk of spreading or catching coronavirus. To minimise risk, the Government has said class sizes should be kept small.
Staggering lunch times, class start and end times and breaks will help to reduce contact between pupils and teachers.
The Government said that further social distancing measures could also include: sitting children at desks that are further apart than usual and avoiding unnecessary staff gatherings.
Experts are already warning of the impact of school closures on children.
Exeter University’s Prof Lee Elliot Major – author of a London School of Economics report on the issue – has called for longer school days so pupils can catch up.
He said: “There are serious concerns that the pandemic will plunge the Covid-19 generation into a dark age of declining social mobility because of rising educational inequalities.”