Gavin Williamson to announce plans for overhaul of schools ahead of pupils return

2 July 2020, 06:06

Pupils will be groups into "bubbles" by their school or college
Pupils will be groups into "bubbles" by their school or college. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Schools in England will be told to stagger break times, overhaul the curriculum and group pupils into "bubbles" when children return to class in September.

New guidelines will be published by the Government with the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson due to announce plans for getting children back to school.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported a Government blueprint for reopening schools reveals the strict measures schools will have to take before they are able to open again.

Year groups will be banned from mixing in assemblies and choirs and headteachers will need to be ready to shut down their school again in the event of a virus outbreak.

Plans for "bubbles" will mean a class of whole year group will take their lessons, breaks and lunch at the same time meaning if one pupil tests positive it will be easier to identify which classmate needs to self-isolate.

The newspaper reported health protection teams will be on standby to assess potential outbreaks in schools should the establishment experience a general rise in sickness or absence where Covid-19 is a suspected cause.

In such cases, a year group – or possibly all pupils in an entire school – may be told to stay at home and self-isolate as a precautionary measure.

Details are expected to be set out at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday - the first time one has been held since daily briefings were scrapped last week.

Meanwhile, schools in Leicester will be closed on Thursday and will not reopen until after the summer break.

Figures released in Public Health England's preliminary investigation into the Leicester outbreak - released on Wednesday evening - suggested a slight drop in the infection rate in the city from the week to June 20 to the seven days prior to June 27 - down from 140.2 to 135.7 per 100,000 people.

The data also suggests the overall infection rate in England fell over the same period from 10.7 to 6.7 per 100,000 - despite the easing of some lockdown restrictions.

Rates in Bradford, Barnsley and Rochdale declined more sharply over the same period. Officials in regions with high infection rates have said they are working hard not to follow Leicester into lockdown.

The report also suggested the majority of recently confirmed cases are in people aged 18 to 65 years - with the median age of those infected standing at 39 years. And 50.9% of the cases reported in June in the city were in women.

The wards of North Evington, Belgrave and Stoneygate had the highest number of cases reported between June 11 and 25.

But the report concluded evidence for the scale of the outbreak was limited and an increase in reported cases could be partly due to a rise in the availability of testing.

The Office for National Statistics will on Thursday provide new figures from the coronavirus infection survey for England, and the latest data on the NHS Test and Trace programme will also be published.

It comes as the economic challenges of the pandemic were laid bare by a continuing jobs bloodbath.

The John Lewis Partnership warned over store closures and job cuts and Sir Philip Green's Topshop empire revealed redundancy plans on Wednesday.

Upper Crust owner SSP announced up to 5,000 roles could go following plunging passengers numbers at railway stations and airports.

And Unite the union said its research revealed that almost 12,000 aerospace job losses have been announced in recent months at some of the UK's biggest companies, including 1,700 by Airbus earlier this week.