Staggered schools return in January is 'sensible', says leading headteacher

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the chang

Geoff Barton welcomed the move to stagger the return of school students in January - Credit: Archant

A decision to stagger students' return to school following the Christmas break has been described as "sensible" by education leader Geoff Barton.

Following an announcement by Michael Gove, only primary school pupils and students in Year 11 and 13, plus the children of key workers, will return to classrooms from January 4.

However, all other year groups will be required to stay at home and will be taught remotely.

The government has said the staggered return will allow for schools to prepare for mass Covid-19 testing in a bid to reduce the number of students sent home to isolate.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, said the move to stagger school returns "seems sensible".

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However, he said the decision should be reviewed by the government's scientists if infection rates begin to rise.

Mr Barton said: "The staggered start seems sensible instead of expecting all of that movement in schools at once.

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"There are still question marks over whether there could be a longer time between the staggered starts, like they are doing in Wales.

"There have been a lot of schools that have struggled to stay open when classes have been forced to isolate.

"But we have to listen to what the scientists say. The staggered start will at least allow schools to begin mass testing."

However, Jerry Glazier, Essex representative for the National Education Union, has called for students to remain away from classrooms for the first fortnight of term.

Jerry Glazier, NEU spokesman for Essex Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGE

NEU Essex representative Jerry Glazier said testing needs to be in place before schools return

He also said the Covid-19 vaccine should be administered to school staff sooner rather than later in a bid to reduce infections in classrooms.

Mr Glazier said: "A week ago we said we wanted the first two weeks of term to be online.

"Schools will not have been in a position to set up testing over the holidays. The testing has to be effective and the infrastructure needs to be in place.

"The future is very much dependent on vaccines. If you want to keep a service going, you need to vaccinate the people who keep the service going.

"All things being equal, we think the government needs to take decisive action."

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has that reopening schools in January will involve "trade-offs" with other Covid-19 restrictions.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "It is our intention to make sure we can get children back to school as early as possible.

"We are talking to teachers and head teachers in order to make sure we can deliver effectively. But we all know that there are trade-offs."

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