As few as ’40 per cent of eligible primary pupils’ returned to classes today as schools stayed shut, turned children away or even held ‘staff training days’.
The Association of School and College Leaders said that of the facilities that are open attendance is ‘highly variable’ and ranges between ’40 per cent and 70 per cent’.
But the union’s general secretary Geoff Barton said this figure is likely to increase as ‘parents become become confident about sending their children to school’.
Up to two million pupils were due to return to lessons but some were turned away because headteachers ‘weren’t ready’ for them while around half of parents have chosen to keep their children at home because of safety fears.
Up to 1,500 primary schools in England are estimated to be defying the Government’s plan to get all reception, year 1 and year 6 children back in the classroom from June 1 as teachers admitted they were feeling anxiety about returning to work and unions demanded the date be pushed back to June 15 at the earliest.
Parents have revealed that many schools will remain closed for at least another week or more, while some have not yet set a date at all. In other cases schools decided they can only increase the number of places for key workers’ children, not for everyone.
At least two dozen councils, mostly Labour run, have refused to reopen their schools or left it up to headteachers, who are trying to find ways to ensure social distancing in their school buildings and ensuring they have enough teachers to teach ‘bubbles’ of up to ten children.
But while hundreds of thousands of young students are back in class and reunited with their friends and teachers today, MailOnline can reveal there was confusion at several schools in London with some parents arriving with their children only to be informed they couldn’t come in and had to go home again.
Parents at Winsor Primary School in east London were turned away today and told teachers are still making arrangements.
Glauciane Conti was turned away at the school gate this morning with her son who is in year one. The 35-year-old, a cleaner from Forest Gate, said: ‘My son just went in to ask the teachers and they say it is not open as they are still making arrangements. I don’t understand. Now I have to go to work’. Gallions Primary School, also in Beckton, plans to remain closed to the general public this week.
Hanif Hazari, 58 accompanied his son Mahmamudullabi who is a year 6 pupil at Havelock Primary School in Southall, west London after being informed via a text message that it was reopening following the easing of the lockdown.
Mr Hazari said: ‘The playground was completely deserted so I went into the school office and they told me that the school has now decided to remain closed and they don’t have a date as yet as to when it will open. It’s very confusing, I don’t know what’s going on. The Government appears to be saying one thing and the schools another.’ Mahmamudullabi, 11, added: ‘I hope the school opens soon because I’m getting really bored at home.’
Jaswinder Grover, who arrived at the school with his daughter Simran, a year 6 pupil said: ‘I was initially told that the school would reopen today but as you can see, hardly anybody has turned up. And now the school is telling me something completely different. The Government needs to be a clearer about what’s actually going on and when our kids can go back to school, which I hope is soon.’
A Havelock Primary official told MailOnline that the school is now not scheduled to reopen until June 15 at the very earliest. He added: ‘Some parents were under the impression that we were opening on June 1. We’re very sorry for any confusion that’s been caused, and parents will be notified as soon as possible.’
A government source denied that the situation was ‘chaos’, insisting the process of returning appeared to be going well. ‘Many schools are welcoming back more pupils, take-up is in line with expectations,’ the source said. ‘We always said schools would begin the wider reopening from this week, it’ll be a gradual process.’
As schools reopened for the first time in ten weeks, it also emerged today:
However, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield believes that schools will need to hold summer schools to enable pupils to catch up on work they have missed during the enforced break.
Ms Longfield said in The Telegraph: ‘Based in school buildings and running throughout the holidays, summer schools could provide activities of all kinds, meals and potentially some learning too,’ she said.
‘The idea is also likely to be popular with parents, who however well-intentioned and motivated may need a break from home schooling and may also be in desperate need of childcare as they return to work.’
One teacher wrote this morning: ‘Lots of us are going to feel very apprehensive and anxious about the new changes, however that looks in our school. We stand with each other.’
Queen’s Hill Primary and Nursery School near Norwich reopened to reception children on Monday, with 46 attending out of a total of 75 in the year group.
The school has been open to children of key workers throughout the coronavirus lockdown, with plans to reopen to nursery children next week and to children in Years 1 and 6 from June 15.
Emma Corps, 39, was in a socially distanced queue of parents as she dropped off her five-year-old daughter Isla at the school gates.
‘I was a bit anxious but she was excited and I think they need to go back to school as there needs to be some sort of normality back in their lives,’ she said.
‘For the 10 weeks she was saying ‘when am I going back, when am I going back?’ then at 6.30am this morning it was ‘mummy, quick’!’
Jo Frost, 37, who was dropping off her five-year-old son Max at Queen’s Hill Primary and Nursery School near Norwich, said: ‘It’s obviously a difficult decision but you’ve got to weigh up everything in life.
‘You can’t just shut yourself away and wrap yourself up in cotton wool. You could just walk out the door and anything could happen.
‘The school have really thought about it. They’ve sent out lots of letters, pictures and given us all the information we need. I feel confident that they’re doing everything right. We were quite relieved, to be honest, as it’s quite a long time that he’s been off and at his age it’s really important to be with his peers.
Penny Sheppard, head teacher of Queen’s Hill Primary and Nursery School near Norwich, which reopened to reception children on Monday, said: ‘I think if I’m honest a lot of headteachers were quite surprised about June 1 because I think we’d been doing a lot of reading about things in the media.
‘Probably a lot of us had thought ‘OK, we won’t be having children back until September’. But then like anything you take it in your stride don’t you?
‘You think OK, right, after that little bit of a shock announcement, let’s think about this logically and then just start a plan of action to work towards that.
‘We’ve been open throughout this and I’ve had 60 children (of key workers) in childcare so I know that the systems I’ve put in place are workable and the children, I’ve been keeping them in their separate ‘pods’.
‘I knew it was just an extension of that’. +33
A child makes a bubble at Watlington Primary School in lunch break on the first day back for many children +
A teacher during an outdoor class at Watlington Primary School as some schools re-open as the lockdown eases
Schools, like this one in Norfolk, are using fruit to mark out where children should sit in their class bubbles, which are less than ten
A year 6 sturent returns to a Bristol school with his mother today – most children are not wearing uniform to ensure children wear clean clothes each day
Summer camps may be set up to enable children to catch up on lessons after the closures. Queen’s Hill Primary School, Costessey, Norfolk opened today
Pupils will begin returning to classrooms across England today, at Heath Mount Prep School in Watton-at-Stone, desks have been moved further to maintain social distancing rules
Desks have been taped off with smaller classroom sizes at some schools, including Holywell Village First School in Northumberland
Freddie Noble, six, and his little brother Will, three, are returning to school in West Norfolk today
CORONAVIRUS CASE CONFIRMED AT PRIMARY SCHOOL
A Primary School in Gloucestershire sent a letter to parents last week confirming someone at the school had tested positive for coronavirus.
Woolaston Primary School in Lydney believe the person contracted the illness at a holiday camp held at the school, and sent the letters to parents last week.
It comes as schools across the country reopen their doors on Monday for children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.
Woolaston Primary’s acting headteacher Emma Gomersall confirmed the school carried out a deep clean on Wednesday and Thursday.
Ministers are in discussions over summer camps to enable disadvantaged children, along with a ‘catch-up premium’ that will grant schools extra funding for initiatives to help the most affected pupils.
This comes as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson acknowledged the recent school closures would have the biggest impact upon the poorest children.
An announcement is due to come in the next few weeks, despite objections from teaching unions if the plans involve working over the summer.
This could lead to another row between the government and unions, in the face of Ms Longfield’s concerns that pupils may be absent from schools for up to six months.
History teacher Chris Beach said: ‘First day back in school today. We in Guernsey are blessed to have no active cases, but I am worried for friends and ex-colleagues in the UK – stay safe everyone.’
Another commented ‘Anxiety through the roof for many,’ as primary school children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are able to return to school after 10 weeks out.
Schools have been preparing for classrooms to reopen for weeks, corridors have been marked off to keep pupils apart as they go about their school day, while desks have also been moved to maintain a distance of two metres between schools.
Children as young as four are being put in social distancing bubbles in classrooms and playgorunds to prevent the spread of Covid-19 germs +33
Corridors have been marked off to keep pupils apart at a school in Northumberland
‘Scaremongering’ Charlotte Church is blasted over ‘hatred-inciting’ call for England’s parents to keep children off school in foul-mouthed Twitter rant
Charlotte Church today suffered an avalanche of criticism after urging England’s parents not to send their children to school claiming Boris Johnson doesn’t ‘give a flying f**k’ about them.
The 34-year-old mother of two’s extraordinary Twitter outburst came despite the singer living in Wales where schools will remain closed until September.
Taking to Twitter on Sunday morning, she wrote: ‘Highly recommend if you can help it, not sending your children back to school tomorrow…..this government doesn’t give a flying f**k about you, your children, your elders or your vulnerable.’
Parents who want their children to return to school have accused the star of ‘shaming’ them, with one saying: ‘What a ridiculous and hatred inciting statement’. Another replied to her message saying: ‘This is shocking. There are many children who haven’t had any education for the last 10 weeks. You as a mother I would have thought would have understood the importance of this’.
And critics have also pointed out that Ms Church’s advice to parents with children in mainstream school came despite her decision home school her own offspring since 2016.
Last year she enraged her Glamorgan community by turning her £2.5million home into a private school where she hopes to ‘liberate’ children up to 20 children. One neighbour said: ‘She has no educational background or track record in managing a school.’ Ms Church homeschools her own children Ruby, 11, and Dexter, 10, and claims she now she is pledging to give other children in their area freedom over what to learn.
Most teachers have reduced class sizes, which will operate in bubbles, with no interaction with other classes.
For younger years, toys have been taken out of classroom and are being kept in storage out of fear they could hold Covid-19 germs.
Brian Walton, head teacher at Brookside Academy in Somerset, spoke to Good Morning Britain ahead of pupils’ arrival from 7.30am.
He said: ‘Like headteachers up and down the country we’ve been planning this probably from when lockdown started really. It’s taken meticulous plans consultation with staff and parents.
‘Like most of the teachers right now I’m glad it was a really early start because I probably wouldn’t have slept anyway.’
Children are at an extremely low risk of catching coronavirus. The majority of hospital admissions are people over 60.
The main concern over pupils returning to school is the potential spread of germs between different households, while teachers who may be at risk could also be exposed.
Headteachers have also predicted that more than one in five teachers will be forced to work from home because of health conditions, their age or because members of their family are vulnerable.
Co-headteacher Matt Ferris of Kingsholm Primary School has explained many of the new features in response to parents’ questions over how their children will adapt to social distancing measures,
They will be given a designated time slot and and allotted area – or pen – where they leave their child before heading off along a designated walkway.
Pupils will be told to maintain social distancing between others, and they will only be allowed to mix with a small number of others.
Students who do not conform with the social distancing rules will also be sent home on a three-strikes policy.
In a video published on the school’s website, Mr Ferris talks parents through what they can expect when Year 6, Year 1 and Reception and nursery children return on June 1.
Drop off and collection times will be staggered with queues and marked walkways for parents and pupils to follow.
Kingsholm is using timeslots based on surnames, with parents being asked to drop children off alone, without siblings or other children. +33
St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Hertford has prepared its classrooms for pupils’ return