DOWNING Street has sent a clear signal to teaching unions that all schools must open in September.
The Prime Minister and the Education Secretary are working to ensure children catch up on the learning they have missed as a result of the pandemic and return to school when the summer holidays end.
Last week there were questions over a September return when Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was the “working plan” to open up schools fully at the start of the academic year “at the earliest”.
But Mr Johnson and Gavin Williamson insisted that all schools must open their gates in September.
Last week the Government dropped plans for all primary-age children to spend four weeks in school before the end of term.
But Mr Johnson is clear that he sees “massive importance” in this catch-up programme and “not just for economic purposes but for social justice”.
He has asked for a wide-ranging package to be drawn up, focusing not only on helping youngsters over the summer but from September onward.
The PM is worried not all youngsters will have benefited from the “remote learning” at home enjoyed by those in better-off families.
A Downing Street source said: “The PM is acutely aware that the closures have had an impact on all children but particularly the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.
“He appreciates the consequences of months out of school and this package will be focused on providing extended support.
“The PM is also grateful for the hard work of teachers, parents and schools to keep educating children throughout this difficult period.”
Mr Williamson has confirmed schools will not be open during summer, so detailed work can continue with schools, councils and unions to make sure all children are able to return in September if safe to do so.
The Government will also announce plans for more primaryage pupils to return before the summer break. Schools will be able to accept pupils from a year group other than Reception,Year 1 andYear 6. However, this will only happen if they have the capacity and can ensure that pupils continue to learn in groups of up to 15 with a range of protective measures in place.
The latest figures show that more than 70 percent of primaries are now open to pupils for the eligible age groups.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said teachers and school leaders are “more concerned than anybody about the impact of coronavirus on this generation”.
Like the PM, he is worried about those struggling to learn at home and being in danger of falling behind.
Mr Whiteman said: “Schools have done an incredible job providing remote learning but there has been low engagement from some pupils, especially those already at risk of falling behind. Lack of access to technology and internet has also hindered learning.
“Recovering this lost learning won’t be a quick or easy job. It will take a considerable long-term investment of time, money, energy and resources, which the Government must recognise and provide.”
Gavin wants in class ” Mr Whiteman insisted this must be led by education experts. He added: “The Government should give serious consideration to a ‘catch-up premium’ to allow schools to focus on activities that are proven to work.”
Meanwhile, Labour shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey wants children who are eligible for free school meals to be given food support during the holidays.
She wants the Government to keep a voucher scheme running through the summer which helps poorer families feed their children. She said: “Covid-19 has plunged many into financial hardship and this is likely to get worse over summer.”
Mr Johnson has said a further £63million will be made available “to be used by local authorities at their discretion to help the most vulnerable families”.