Primary headteachers are ready to ignore Department for Education guidance not to use pupil attendance rotas when they open their schools to more children in two weeks.
The government guidance published last night is designed to help school leaders and academy trusts plan for the return of pupils in early years, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 returning to class from 1 June.
It states that: "Schools should not plan on the basis of a rota system, either daily or weekly."
But scores of heads and chief executives are said to be ready to stick to plans they have already drawn up that use rotas, in defiance of the guidance.
Dan Morrow, CEO of the Woodland Academy Trust in Kent, who is among those setting up a new collective of heads and multi-academy trust chiefs, said he had been contacted overnight by many fellow trust and school leaders expressing anger over the guidance.
“So many of us have planned, organised and communicated to our teams what’s going to happen," he said. "To try now to change everything is going to create so much anxiety for colleagues across the system. It’s just not fair to change to say that we’re not doing rotas and part-time opening.
“It’s not that we haven’t been listened to, it’s that we haven't even been spoken to, we haven’t been asked or made part of the conversation.
“There are over 100 heads and CEOs who will digest and utilise the guidance but who will retain their own bespoke, context-driven planning.”
He told Tes that around 80 per cent of those leaders were planning to use pupil rotas from June despite the DfE guidance.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the guidance had caused concerns among primary school leaders. His association has written to the DfE today, raising these concerns and asking for further clarification.
“The earlier guidance did not make it clear that there was an expectation that schools should offer full-time places to all eligible pupils from the agreed date," he said.
“Many primary leaders have been planning on the basis of part-time attendance in the first instance, often involving rotas, as a way of achieving the government’s aim of getting children in the specified year groups back into school, while implementing the guidance on protective measures.
"We continue to advise school leaders that they know their schools best, and that if they decide, on the basis of their risk assessments, that they will have to limit the extent to which they reopen, then we will back them.”
From lidded bins to tape to cordoned off floor space, the new guidance also reveals the practical challenges primaries will face.
Heads have also questioned why the youngest pupils are being brought back rather than those in Year 2 and 5 who are at key transition points, said Mr Morrow.
A DfE spokesperson said its guidance was there to guide and advise.