Full reopening of schools gets off to a good start

08/03/2021
Early indications suggest the first day of the full reopening of schools in England has gone well with many schools reporting high take-up of Covid tests and pupils generally following policies on wearing face coverings in secondary classrooms.
 
The government expects secondary schools and colleges to provide on-site Covid tests to returning pupils before they enter the classroom. Feedback we gathered last week suggests that about three-quarters of secondary schools need to phase pupils back into school this week in order to manage the flow of pupils through testing stations.
 
The government has also extended the recommended use of face coverings to the classroom in secondary schools and colleges, but has not made them mandatory.
 
Neither the policy over on-site tests or face coverings applies to primary schools.
 
Today, we circulated a survey to headteachers and principals in England. The findings were:
 
  • Of 729 secondary schools and colleges, just over half (54%) reported take-up of on-site Covid tests of between 90% and 100%, and in about a quarter (24%) take-up was between 80% and 89%. Take-up was below 60% in 6% of schools.
  • Of 706 secondary schools and colleges, nearly three quarters (73%) reported that more than 90% of pupils were complying with the policy on face coverings in classrooms, with nearly a quarter of these (23%) saying compliance was 100%. Some reported lower compliance with 2% saying it was below 70%. Of the schools responding, 20% were not able to give an indication as students had not yet returned to lessons.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “These early indications are very encouraging and the feedback we are receiving also suggests that attendance is good in the majority of schools.
 
“Schools and colleges have worked incredibly hard to plan and prepare for the return of pupils and we would like to put on record our thanks and admiration for everything they have done. The requirement to provide on-site Covid tests has been particularly onerous, and introducing face coverings in classrooms has opened up a minefield that they have had to navigate.
 
“We know schools have had to put a great deal of time and effort into obtaining parental consent for on-site Covid tests and that has clearly proved especially difficult in some places. Likewise, while most pupils and parents are supporting schools over the thorny issue of face coverings, it appears that some are not doing so.
 
“We would encourage all parents and pupils to follow their school’s rules on face coverings which are in line with public health guidance and are there for the good of everybody.”