Children return to classes in England as lockdown eases

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Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils have been returning to school in England today

Share this article via messenger 461 SHARES Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils have been returning to school in England today Children are beginning to return to schools this morning in an easing of the lockdown which will see some families reunited at a social distance.  English pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are able to come into classes in the first phase of plan to return children to education – despite concerns over safety. It is part of a wider easing of measures that will also see outdoor markets and car show rooms reopen and groups of up to six people allowed to meet outside in public places or private gardens.

‘Shielders’ are also able to go outside for the first time in weeks.  But Government leaders have stressed social distancing measures must stay in place, particularly staying two metres apart from someone outside your household. It comes as several scientists have criticised the move suggesting it is too early to lift restrictions and could cause coronavirus infections to rapidly rise again. Visit our live blog for the latest updates: Coronavirus news live Ministers insist the time is right to ease the lockdown because the Government has met its five tests to do so and the rate of infection, or R value, has been consistently below one.

The new rules allow for families and friends to meet up for picnics and barbecues and travel freely around the country, so long as they do not stay anywhere overnight that is not their primary home. Some parents are reluctant to send their children back, according to the National Foundation for Educational Research, after its survey of more than 1,200 school leaders found headteachers were expecting 46% of families to keep pupils at home.

A father walks his twins to the Little Darling Childcare after nurseries and primary schools partly reopened in England (Picture: AP) Many parents are not sending their children back, but pupils arrived at Watlington Primary School this morning (Picture: Reuters) A mother drops off her daughter in London on the first day of lockdown easing (Picture: AP) Findings from a recent PA news agency survey of local authorities show that more than 20 councils across England – predominantly in the north – are also advising schools not to open to more pupils this week. Some of those polled have claimed that the NHS Test and Trace system will not be ‘robust enough’ to allay fears over the potential spreading of the virus due to difficulty maintaining social distancing.

Meanwhile, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has called on the Government to set up summer classes in July and August to help children catch up on work they missed during lockdown, with some facing up to six months off school depending on when they are able to return.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, she said summer schools could help the ‘most deprived’ and ‘provide activities of all kinds, meals and potentially some learning too.’ A warm weekend saw people flock to beaches and parks around the UK, prompting members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), to warn that ministers are taking risks.

Northwood Schools in London has social distancing measures in place (Picture: REX) Some parents are expected to keep their children at home despite the move (Picture: REX) Harris Primary school in West Green, London, has been preparing for children to return (Picture: REX) Jeanelle de Gruchy, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health told The Guardian the public was ‘not keeping to social distancing as it was’, adding the organisation was ‘increasingly concerned that the Government is misjudging the balance of risk between more social interaction and the risk of a resurgence of the virus, and is easing too many restrictions too quickly’.
But deputy chief medical officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said the public would be safe if they were ‘sensible’ and did not ‘overdo it’.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick also insisted the Government’s easing of restrictions was correct. Referring to the R rate of coronavirus, Mr Jenrick told the coronavirus daily briefing: ‘We have to all continue to play our part in that, because the rate of infection remains somewhere between 0.7 and 0.9 and the room for manoeuvre is quite limited.’ New guidelines also allow 2.2 million ‘shielded’ people, classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’, to have more social interaction ahead of a review on June 15.