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16 May 2020 00:37

Steve Chalke

Sign up to FREE email alerts from CambridgeLive - daily Subscribe Thank you for subscribing See our privacy notice Invalid Email Primary school leaders in England are planning to introduce one-way systems, half days, increase cleaning and stagger lunches, in a bid to keep young children apart when more pupils return to school. Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Trust, which has 35 primary schools across the country, said the trust plans to admit more pupils to its schools from June 1, the date proposed by the Government, despite opposition from unions, who have said an early return could be unsafe for children and teachers. The Government has faced pressure over its plans to send children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back to school from next month, with teachers warning that social distancing among children is "impossible". Take part in the Great Big Lockdown Parenting Survey today and have your voice heard Calling all parents. Stop what you're doing.

Put down the wine glass. Step away from the school books. Quit pretending you can't hear the children squabbling. We need your brains. Right now.

We are asking you to take part in our Great Big Parenting survey to show the world, politicians, fellow parents, just what life is like in Lockdown. Help us paint a true picture of how this crisis is affecting you and your loved ones. If it feels like we are living through history, it's because we are - and this is your chance to help us record it. Fill in the survey here: It will only take a matter of minutes! p.s. And for the record, we think you're doing a grand job. But Mr Chalke said that he believes pupils will be able to social distance when they return to school, and he added that he knows children as young as five who understand the concept and are "very good" at it. He told the PA news agency that it is "common sense" to create an opportunity for pupils to return to school, especially for children from lower-income families who see it as a place of "security and safety". Mr Chalke, whose schools on average have 45% of children eligible for free school meals (FSMs), said: "The greatest risk to their health, for many of them, is their mental health. They're locked in." Some schools in the Oasis Trust will put in place one-way systems when they reopen, and they will split days so that half of the pupils come in the morning and the other half attend in the afternoon. Mr Chalke added: "Lunch is going to be served socially isolated, but on paper plates with plastic knives and forks, which we don't love, but that means that there's no contamination. All of it is thrown away." Chris Tweedale, chief executive of GEP Academies, which runs seven schools in Surrey, said the academy trust was "on track" with their plans to reopen by June 1. He said: "We are putting in place some common-sense measures - limiting class sizes to 15 or fewer if classrooms are small, having staggered lunchtime times and breaks, ramping up our cleaning regime, and essentially creating protective bubbles around small groups of children." Sir Steve Lancashire, chief executive of REAch2, the largest primary academy chain in England, said its schools will be introducing smaller class sizes, increased cleaning, and staggered break and lunchtimes. He said: "Our intention is to open all of our schools for the priority year groups, and will do so as long as the rigorous risk assessments we carry out for each school gives us the reassurance we need that we can keep our pupils and staff as safe as possible." It comes after the Department for Education (DfE) issued guidelines on Monday which said primary school class sizes should be limited to 15 pupils and outdoor space should be utilised. The advice calls for schools to stagger lunch and break times, as well as drop-off and pick-up times, to reduce the number of pupils moving around. It adds that schools should consider introducing one-way circulation, or placing a divider down the middle of the corridor. The Government guidance acknowledges that young pupils will not be able to remain two metres apart from each other and staff. Instead, primary school classes should be split into small "consistent" groups which should be kept from mixing with other pupils during the day. But speaking on Friday, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said he believed it was possible for young children to socially distance in schools. Mr Lewis told BBC Breakfast: "I think one of the things teachers are able to do, both in the classroom and outside the classroom, and all of us as parents and people in society, is to continue to educate each other around social distance. "So yes, even in a school environment I think it is important that we do what we can to encourage and explain and educate around social distancing." Children have been learning at home since the schools closed in March but not all families have access to technology One of England's biggest academy trusts says that it will reopen its primary schools on June 1, calling opposition to the plan "rather middle-class". Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Charitable Trust which has 35 primary schools, said that efforts to disrupt pupils going back to the classroom failed to recognise the damage being done to disadvantaged children from missing their lessons. The teaching unions say they do not believe it will be safe to open primaries for children in reception, year 1 and year 6 after the May half-term. They are not persuaded by government plans, which say social distancing is not needed as long as classes are limited to no more than 15 pupils and children stick to these "protective bubbles". One union