Headteachers warn of 'supermarket queues' outside reopened primary schools next week

Ewan Somerville
PA

Headteachers have warned they expect supermarket-style queues to line school gates as primaries prepare to reopen to pupils from Monday.

Boris Johnson is pressing ahead with plans to get pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to return on June 1 despite fierce objection from teaching unions.

At least 20 local authorities in England have defied the Prime Minister and urged schools not to reopen on safety grounds.

But a new poll of 2,000 heads by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) found that nine out of ten members intended to open their schools.

Schools will look different for some time to come, heads have warned (PA)

For school leaders allowing youngsters to return, staggered pick-up times and one-way corridors are part of the new normal.

Hartford Manor Primary School in Cheshire is taking a “phased approach” by reopening to 100 more pupils over successive days from June 8.

Headteacher Simon Kidwell said parents will queue at drop-off and pick-up times, classroom windows will be open to ensure good ventilation, extra cleaners have been employed and water fountains, as “hotspots for transmission”, have been removed.

“Social distancing for adults is going to be stringent, with a dropping-off system where parents will have to queue a bit like at the supermarket,” he said.

Boris Johnson said the Government's five tests have been met so schools can reopen (PA)

“We have also installed 37 new hand washing stations, which are like troughs with warm water and soap for children to wash their hands before entering the building.

“It’s important for children that class looks as normal as possible but no longer will we be able to have 400 children running around and playing together at lunch time.”

Official guidance from the Department for Education urges schools to teach pupils in small “bubbles” limited to 15, utilise outdoor space and stagger breaktime.

It does not advise teachers to wear PPE or enforce social distancing as long as small-group teaching is observed, but some teachers are doing this anyway, The Times reports.

Bryony Baynes, headteacher at Kempsey Primary School in Worcester, said similar measures would be in place at her school, adding that corridors will have one-way systems and staff will be allowed to wear face masks if they want to.

“Realistically, as I have said to parents, I can’t promise you that the little ones will be two metres apart at all times – they are four and five years old,” she said.

School leaders have given a glimpse into the socially-distanced school future (PA)

“If a child falls over, we are still going to pick them up and cuddle them... I think they will adapt to the new normal.”

Nine teachers’ representatives, including the National Education Union which has over 450,000 members, have insisted pupils, parents and teachers are at risk if schools reopen next week.

But ministers and the Government’s scientific and medical advisers have insisted the health effects of prolonged time at home, especially for vulnerable pupils, outweighs the risks.

Sheffield city council and Lancashire county council became the latest to rule out opening schools next week. Headteachers have been told the decision over whether to reopen rests with them.