Secondary schools pupils facing GCSE and A-level exams return today

Secondary schools pupils facing GCSE and A-level exams next year return to classes today – but only a quarter of Years 10 and 12 are allowed on site at one time due to social-distancing

  • Government wants pupils to have ‘face-to-face’ support before exams in summer
  • Contact time likely to vary considerably, with some prioritising struggling pupils
  • Education Secretary Gavin Williamson wants to return all pupils by September 

Secondary school pupils with GCSE and A-level exams next year are returning to classes today, but only a quarter of Years 10 and 12 are allowed on site at one time due to social-distancing.

The Government wants pupils to have ‘face-to-face’ support before their exams next summer, but the amount contact time will vary considerably across the country. 

Some schools are only launching ‘weekly contact sessions’ for teenagers or prioritising contact for children who have ‘struggled’ with remote learning, while around one in eight are set to remain closed. 

The Government wants pupils to have ‘face-to-face’ support before their exams next summer, but the amount contact time will vary considerably across the country. File photo 

A survey of more than 4,000 state secondary school staff by app provider, Teacher Tapp, found that 71 per cent will admit more pupils beyond key worker children next week.

However, 11 per cent will either reopen from June 22, June 29 or at a ‘later date before the summer’, according to the findings published in Schools Week.

Three per cent of respondents said their secondary school would not re-open until the autumn term.

Five per cent said a decision had not yet been reached over admitting more pupils and ten per cent said their school had already reopened.

The findings come after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs that they were working towards bringing all children back to school by September, and GCSE and A-level exams will go ahead next year. 

Already, primary schools in England have begun welcoming children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back to the classroom. 

A separate study by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) found that 12 per cent of secondary schools and colleges will not reopen from Monday.

The main reasons are ‘local concerns about the reproduction rate of the virus’, with wider opening ‘potentially’ starting from June 22 instead, the poll found.

ASCL points out that provision ‘varies’ as schools and colleges must keep the cohort size to no more than a quarter.

Many are planning ‘weekly, or more than weekly contact sessions, for all eligible pupils, while others have a mixed model with different arrangements for Year 10 and Year pupils’.

Others are ‘prioritising more contact for pupils who have struggled with remote learning’, ‘providing review sessions’ for all or ‘building the frequency of contact sessions over time’.

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs last week that he was working towards bringing all children back to school by September, and GCSE and A-level exams will go ahead next year

At Heathfield Community College in East Sussex, around 30 per cent of year 10 pupils will not be returning with their peers next week.

Headteacher Caroline Barlow feels the school’s rural location is to blame.

She told Schools Week: ‘A lot of parents don’t want to put their kids on the buses.’

Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said heads are ‘doing an enormous amount of work’ to help pupils return, which is ‘akin to something between a military operation and an exercise in mathematics’.

He said: ‘Schools and colleges have moved mountains to support children through the coronavirus pandemic with emergency provision, remote learning, and now bringing in more children, in extremely challenging circumstances.’

The findings come as the head of the University and College Union (UCU) was yesterday accused of celebrating children being shut out of classrooms.

In a message to members, Jo Grady, general secretary of UCU, which represents staff in further and higher education, praised the ‘impressive public campaigning’ of teachers against full reopening of primary schools, according to The Daily Telegraph.

She insisted her sector could ‘achieve similar victories’ just days after the government performed a U-turn over plans to get all primary children back into lessons before the summer break.

But Tom Hunt, a Tory education select committee member, said the fact many children will not return to school until September ‘is not something to congratulate’.

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