Coronavirus: Government considering 'rota system' for secondary schools hit by local lockdowns

Boris Johnson’s government is considering a plan to advise secondary schools to operate a “rota system” to reduce the number of pupils in classes if a local spike in Covid-19 infections leads to renewed lockdown restrictions, The Independent understands.

One option under discussion would be for some secondary year groups to attend school on certain weeks, before switching with other year groups. Primary schools would be expected to remain fully open in the event of a local lockdown, since transmission rates are lower in younger children.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) union, said he was “frustrated” it has taken so long to begin discussing the possibilities with the Department of Education (DfE) given the “imminent” reopening of schools.

Headteachers in England are urging the government to set out “clear” rules on what happens if there is an outbreak of coronavirus either inside their school or in the local area.

With only one week before children are expected to return to classes, education unions and school leaders said there was still confusion over when exactly schools would be expected to send home class or year group “bubbles”, or shut down entirely.

“We are in discussions with the Department for Education about proposals for a tiered approach to local lockdowns which sets out a number of options over the operation of schools in the event of restrictions caused by coronavirus spikes,” Mr Barton told The Independent.

“It is important that there are more options than simply returning to a situation where most children have to return to learning from home, and which best provide continuity of education,” he added. “We are frustrated that it has taken so long to reach this point given that the reopening of schools is imminent.”

Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Community Learning trust of 52 academies, said his group of secondary schools had made its own plans to set up a “rota” system if a spike in infections occurs.

“I think it would be really good if the government did provide more guidance [on outbreaks]. We are ready to rota where we need to,” he said. ”We thought we needed to get on with it, rather than hang around.”

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