Fear over the spread of the coronavirus is the main reason why more than one in 10 secondary schools and colleges are not opening from Monday, according to a survey.
The next step in the government’s easing of lockdown involves the start of face-to-face contact from Monday for Year 10 and 12 pupils.
But the survey, by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), found that 12 per cent of secondary schools and colleges will not open more widely to those year groups, while only 62 per cent expect to bring in all eligible pupils from Monday.
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It found that a further 26 per cent expect only to bring in some eligible pupils, mainly because parents have indicated they will not send in their children, but also because of government guidance that says use of public transport should be kept to a minimum.
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said schools and colleges were bringing in more children “in extremely challenging circumstances”.
He said: “This is akin to something between a military operation and an exercise in mathematics. There are many practical safety measures to put in place, as well as allocating small groups of eligible pupils to available teachers, while ensuring no more than a quarter of the cohort is on site at any time.”
The survey, of 833 secondary school headteachers, college principals and trust leaders, revealed that many found "the complexity of implementing government guidance and quotas challenging", with several saying the guidance lacked clarity.
ASCL itself describes the guidance as “unspecific”, highlighting that it only says pupils should have some face-to-face contact.
The union is also calling for the government to work with the teaching profession “as a matter of urgency” on a national plan for the recovery of education "with a particular focus on what happens from September, and how to support the learning and wellbeing of all children disrupted by this crisis".
Mr Barton added: “It is essential that this plan is developed as soon as possible in order to give schools and colleges time to prepare for this vital mission.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Being in school is vital for children’s education and their wellbeing, which is why we are working to get all pupils back into classrooms by September.
“Our guidance is clear schools should implement a range of protective measures, including reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small groups.
“We have worked constructively with schools, councils and unions for the last 11 weeks, and that will continue as we seek to bring all children back in September.”