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UK hesitant to reopen classes amid fierce debate

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The UK government turned sceptical about its plans to reopen schools as it admitted that not all primary pupils would be able to return to the classroom.

With only six months left before classes end in summer, The Guardian reported on Tuesday that government sources were mulling over deferring in-person classes from the June 1 as originally planned to the new school year in autumn.

Only pupils aged five, six and 10 were scheduled to return to their classes on the said date, while about a quarter of 14 and 16-year-olds were expected to make way back to school on June 15.

The – (NAHT), which represents the majority of England’s primary schools welcomed the acknowledgement, saying it was pleased to see the government “not force the impossible.”

“Schools will continue to use their flexibility, intelligently, to deliver the very best for all the pupils in their school,” NAHT general-secretary Paul Whiteman was quoted as saying.

“Throughout lockdown, school leaders and their teams have worked hard to meet the needs of all their pupils. This term, they must be given the flexibility they need to balance the needs of the pupils coming back and the children continuing to learn at home.”

The Department of Education conducted attendance statistics to feel the pulse of the public, but it was seen that only half of the pupils in three eligible year groups returned to school last week.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will face the public on Tuesday on expectations that he will concede that many primary students will not return until the next school year.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the government’s roadmap for exiting lockdown that was published last month that the school reopening was one of the backup plans to revive the ailing economy.

“The government’s ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible, though this will be kept under review,” Johnson was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

The announcement was met with public outcry, with about 90% of parents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland opposing the school resumption amid fears of virus transmission, according to a major survey of more than 250,000 parents conducted by ParentKind.

“Returning all pupils before the end of this term will present unsolvable practical barriers if the hierarchies of control are to be maintained. Year groups have had to be split into groups of 15, using up other classrooms and occupying teachers from other years,” Whiteman said.

David Adams: David Adams earned his master's degrees in politics & policy analysis and has since started his journalistic endeavours. Prior to joining Westminster Daily, David worked as an economics and policy consultant. Email: dadams@westminster-daily.com
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