Class Sizes: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 29th September 2020.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will make it his policy to reduce the size of classes in (a) primary schools and (b) secondary schools during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

On 2 July, the Department published guidance to help schools prepare for all pupils, in all year groups, to return to school full time from the beginning of the autumn term. The guidance can be viewed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

The guidance, which was developed working closely with Public Health England, sets out a range of protective measures which, when implemented in line with a revised risk assessment, create an inherently safer environment for children and staff where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced. Measures include minimising contacts between groups and maintaining distance where possible, encouraging regular handwashing, and enhanced cleaning.

The overarching principle schools will be applying is to reduce the number of contacts between children and staff. This can be achieved through keeping groups separate and through maintaining the distance between individuals. These are not alternative options and both measures will help, but the balance between them will change depending on children’s ability to distance, the layout of the school, and the feasibility of keeping distinct groups separate whilst offering a broad curriculum (especially at secondary). It is for schools to decide, but it is likely that for younger children the emphasis is on separating groups and for older children it is on distancing.

Class sizes can now return to normal and spaces used by more than one class or group can be cleaned between use. Schools can look to maximise the use of their site and any associated available space, such as rooms in an associated place of worship for schools with a religious character, if feasible.

There cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ approach where the system of controls describes every scenario. Head teachers are best placed to understand the needs of their schools and communities, and to make informed judgments about how to balance delivering a broad and balanced curriculum with the measures needed to manage risk.

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