Fears of overcrowded schools as pupils get ready to return

Headteachers at England’s thousands of overcrowded primary schools will face even greater hurdles to reopening, education unions have warned.

Saturday, 23rd May 2020, 10:00 am
More than 2,700 English primaries were over capacity last year.

Primaries are due to open their doors from Monday, June 1, with children taught in groups of up to 15 and desks spaced further apart.

But with one in six English primaries over capacity, unions warn many simply will not have the space to reopen.

Government data has revealed that 20 schools in the East Riding were over capacity last year.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union.

All 20 were primary schools . None of the secondary schools were over capacity, the analysis revealed.

A UK Government spokesperson said the “welfare of children and staff has been at the heart of all decision-making”.

Government plans for a phased return of pupils from June 1, beginning with selected year groups, have sparked a bitter row with unions.

A growing list of local authorities have refused to reopen their primaries.

More than 2,700 English primaries were over capacity last year, the latest year for which figures are available, analysis by JPIMedia Data of Government data shows.

While schools have remained open for certain pupils, such as the children of key workers, the National Education Union (NEU) said it would be “impossible” for many oversubscribed schools to open more widely while adhering to the new guidance.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary said: “The Government’s current guidance for the wider opening of schools fails to address the necessity of social distancing.

“It is quite clear classes of 15 are impossible for many schools on grounds of space alone. This situation will clearly be exacerbated in those schools that are over capacity.”

The Department for Education said that a school’s overall capacity did not relate to its ability to welcome a limited number of further students back from June.

Any schools unable to accommodate small groups were being given further guidance, a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said: “We want children back in schools as soon as possible because being with their teachers and friends is so important for their education and their wellbeing.

“Plans for a cautious, phased return of some year groups from 1 June, at the earliest, are based on the best scientific and medical advice.

“The welfare of children and staff has been at the heart of all decision-making.”