England's schools to reopen from September in boost for economy

British PM Boris Johnson's government is trying to persuade schools to return to normal.
British PM Boris Johnson's government is trying to persuade schools to return to normal.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Restrictions on class sizes will be lifted to allow English schools, colleges and nurseries to fully reopen in September, at the start of the next academic year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

Measures will remain in place to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, with schools asked to keep children in class or year-group "bubbles" of as many as 240 children, and older students encouraged to keep their distance from one another and staff.

The return to full-time education is a crucial part of the British government's strategy for economic revival. Mr Boris Johnson's government is trying to persuade schools to return to normal, amid concerns that students are falling behind in their education and parents are unable to work effectively while educating their children.

Under the plans, mobile testing units will be deployed to check schools with localised outbreaks and schools will be expected to have plans in place to offer remote education to students who are self-isolating at home.

The maximum size of classes for children aged between five and 11 will be doubled to 30 students in September, Mr Williamson told the House of Commons. Restrictions on group sizes will be lifted from July 20 for nurseries and child minders.

"Returning to normal educational routines as quickly as possible is critical to our national recovery too," Mr Williamson told Parliament on Thursday (July 2). "As a minimum, this will mean keeping whole year-groups in schools and colleges separate."

In the run-up to September, clubs that cover the six-week vacation will also be permitted. However, activities that involve group singing, shouting or chanting should be avoided to prevent airborne infection, the government said.

Attendees should still be kept in "small, consistent groups" of no more than 15 students, with at least one staff member to reduce the risk of transmission, according to guidance from the Education Department.