Government changed school reopening plans 41 times, teaching union head claims

Some primary school year groups are set to return on Monday. (PA)

The government reportedly changed its plans to reopen schools 41 times, according to the head of a teachers union.

Pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are preparing to return to full-time education despite warnings from teachers and public figures about the challenges posed by social distancing in primary schools.

But Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), has urged the government to rethink the planned reopening.

During an appearance on Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News, Bousted said that children should instead return to school on June 15 when the infection rate should be lower.

Children of essential workers socially distance whilst in lesson at Kempsey Primary School in Worcester. Nursery and primary pupils could return to classes from June 1 following the announcement of plans for a phased reopening of schools.

“The government’s plans on reopening schools since they were first produced on May 12 have been changed 41 times,” Bousted said.

“And that's because they've constantly had to be revised as things they have forgotten, things they didn't know, and things they got wrong had to be added in.

"That's hugely added to the stresses of school leaders and teachers, because we have a government simply who they think is just making it up as it goes along."

She added that the government’s latest plans have “given up on social distancing in schools” by favouring “cohort distancing” where children are taught in groups of 15 by one teacher.

She said: “Those children live in families who from tomorrow will be able to go out and socialise with six other people.

“We’re asking them (the teachers) without PPE and without social distancing to go into schools, at a time when the rate of infection is still the fifth highest incidence in the world.

“And at a time when there is not a fully functioning test, trace and isolate system in place.”

Members of Sage, the Government's scientific advisory body, including Professor Peter Horby, have voiced a similar opinion to Bousted.

Horby, chair of the New Emergency Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nevbtag), along with fellow Sage scientists Sir Jeremy Farrar and Professor John Edmunds, said ministers are taking a risk by easing lockdown restrictions on Monday.

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