97% of schools plan for all pupils to return full-time

In 'tiny percentage of cases' where pupils won't immediately return full-time, schools are arranging transition periods or phasing entry, NAHT says

Amy Gibbons

Secondary school students

The overwhelming majority of schools are planning to welcome back all pupils full-time next week, a new survey of heads has found.

And in the "tiny percentage of cases" where this is not the plan, schools are arranging transition periods for new pupils or phasing entry to alleviate children's anxieties about the return, according to the NAHT school leaders' union.

A survey of more than 4,000 NAHT members, carried out a week before the first day of term, found that 97 per cent of schools are planning to bring back pupils back full-time without delay.

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Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: "Everyone wants to see pupils back in class next week, with their teachers and their classmates.

"These figures clearly show that school leaders and their teams have worked incredibly hard over the summer to get schools ready for the start of the autumn term."

He added that "confidence is a fragile thing", and "the long list of government delays, U-turns and uncertainty has not helped matters in the slightest", but school staff have "stuck to their task".

"They are the ones providing the stability for parents right now," he said.

The survey also found:

  • 96 per cent of schools are organising regular additional cleaning of classrooms and school premises.
  • 96 per cent are creating and maintaining pupil bubble groups.
  • 93 per cent are staggering lunchtimes and breaktimes.
  • 87 per cent are staggering start and finish times for pupils.
  • 83 per cent are installing signs to direct pupils and parents.
  • 79 per cent are installing additional handwashing or hand-sanitation units.

In a direct 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 cooperation and understanding between home and school we can achieve the very best return possible despite the political noise."

Mr Whiteman pleaded with the government to "meet us half-way", and not bring out "any more last-minute plans".

"You don't need a crystal ball to see that local restrictions will be a feature of the autumn and winter," he said.

"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 half-way. 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 further disruption 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.

"School is the best place for children's education, development and wellbeing and these findings should give parents and families further confidence ahead of all pupils returning to classrooms over the coming days."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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