Schools given flexibility over year 10 and 12 'face-to-face' plans

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Secondary schools have had to readjust their plans for year 10 and 12 provision after the government pushed back the June 1 date and told schools to avoid splitting days between different groups of children.

The belated government guidance for secondary schools was published on Monday (May 25) – two weeks after the re-opening plans were unveiled – and states that from June 15, secondary schools “are able to offer face-to-face support for a quarter of the year 10 and 12 cohort at any one time”.

The new June 15 date had already been announced by prime minister Boris Johnson on Sunday (May 24) and replaces the previous plan for provision to be available from June 1.

A statement from 10 Downing Street on Sunday (May 24) said: “Secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges will also provide face-to-face contact for year 10, year 12 and equivalent 16 to 19 further education students to help them prepare for exams next year. It is expected this will begin from June 15, with around a quarter of these secondary students in at any point.”

The new DfE guidance states that schools must continue to provide for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, and must continue remote education provision for year 10 and 12 students as well.

Schools can use rota systems to control attendance, but have been asked to avoid splitting single days (such as having one group in the morning and another in the afternoon). Schools must ensure that “only a quarter of children are ever in school on any one day”.

The guidance adds: “We would also expect schools to minimise mixing for arrival, lunchtime, breaks and departure. While in general, groups should be kept apart, brief, transitory contact, such as passing in a corridor, is low risk.”

SEE ALSO: June 15: I will not be re-opening my school for year 10 until I believe it is safe to do so:

It also urges schools to consider how pupils will travel to and from school, ensuring the use of public transport is minimised.

Like the proposal for wider primary school opening from June 1, the secondary school plan will only go ahead if the government’s five tests are met by Thursday (May 28), including decreasing rates of infection and deaths from Covid-19.

On Sunday (May 24), Mr Johnson said that the re-opening plans “remain on track”. A final decision is due on Thursday (May 28).

However, despite the government’s clear ambition to see students in school, the guidance gives headteachers the freedom to offer the “face-to-face” provision online if they want to.

One suggestion in the guidance is that schools might prioritise in-school provision for year 10 and 12 students who have not engaged well with remote learning.

The guidance states: “Schools have the flexibility to implement face-to-face support for year 10 and year 12 pupils in the way that best suits their circumstances, including considerations around staff availability and workload.”

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has urged its members to exercise caution and consider online options for face-to-face provision.

General secretary Geoff Barton said: “We’re pleased the government is giving secondary schools flexibility over how they deliver face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of year 10 and year 12 pupils.

“Schools are best placed to know what support is needed by their pupils. Some pupils will have engaged with remote learning better than others, while some may require more pastoral support.

“Schools will also be in a position of having to manage the availability and workload of teachers, alongside the requirement to continue to provide remote education for the majority of pupils. This is a complex combination of factors and in our discussions with government we emphasised the need to give schools flexibility over how they manage this challenging situation.”

The DfE guidance adds: “It is up to schools to decide how they want to use face-to-face support in the best interests of their pupils, e.g. additional pastoral support, academic support, practical support, or a combination of these.

“There may be some pupils who would particularly benefit from more face-to-face support, such as disadvantaged pupils or pupils who have not been engaging in remote education. These pupils may attend more frequently than others as long as schools ensure that only a quarter of the year 10 and 12 cohort are in school at any one time.”

Speaking last week, in one of his updates to ASCL members, Mr Barton said schools should be “incredibly cautious”. He added: “Remember this is about transmission in the community. The last thing we want is children walking through high streets, going to supermarkets, getting on buses and Tubes, whatever it is, contributing to the infection rates. We definitely don’t want rotas of some children coming in in the morning and some in the afternoon.

“That’s why we want the clarification of what face-to-face learning means and I think increasingly the government agrees with us that for most children that means staying at home, having (online) contact.

He added: “It’s fair to say that from Downing Street and the DfE there is a recognition that this is long-term. That even in September, not all students will be coming in. We will be talking about rotas then and planning accordingly.”

Phil Denton, headteacher of St Bede’s Catholic High School in Lancashire, said that the DfE guidance had not changed his planning, but warned that school leaders were being drowned in documentation.

“The challenge I have as a head is reading each of updates from the DfE, local authority and other agencies. There are at least 10 to 20 documents every day.

“We had reasoned that we could not have all of year 10 in. We will only be bringing in one form group per day in the first two weeks. Then, all being well, we'll increase this to two. That is very dependent though on the first two weeks. This is a delicate and complex health and safety challenge.”

It all comes after the DfE has chosen a back to school approach that has not been modeled by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

SAGE published its advice on school re-opening to ministers on Friday (May 22). The committee has modelled seven scenarios, ranging from bringing back all primary, all secondary, having rotas of attendance, or bringing back transition years only.

The scenarios which appear to have the lowest likely impact on the R number – the infection rate – were variations on weekly or fortnightly rotas. However, the DfE has opted for a hybrid model, bringing back Reception, year 1 and year 6 full-time and some limited provision for year 10 and 12.

The SAGE paper states: “Scenario 7 – alternating one/two weeks on, one/two weeks off – may be a good way to stop extensive transmission chains in schools.

“Scenario 7 is likely to be the most effective strategy to make school attendance normative. If steps are taken to synchronise attendance for families with multiple children, this may be the most effective at enabling parents to return to work.

“Scenario 7b, where children alternate in and out of school on a weekly basis, was perceived to be potentially preferable – both developmentally and practically – for young children and working parents.”

  • DfE: Preparing for the wider opening of schools from 1 June. Primary guidance (May 14); secondary guidance (May 25):
  • SAGE: Modelling and behavioural science responses to scenarios for relaxing school closures, meeting on April 30, 2020 (published May 2020):


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