The former head of Ofsted blasted ministers today for failing to convince parents it is safe to reopen schools on June 1 amid reports three-quarters will refuse to do so.
Sir Michael Wilshaw backed the Government’s plan for a phased restart from next Monday, saying the UK risked creating a ‘lost generation’ due to the months’ long closure.
But he laid a large proportion of blame for the row over the controversial plans – bitterly opposed by teaching unions – at the door of Government ministers.
He said they had left it far too late to begin a campaign designed to convince parents them it was safe to restart, which should have begun almost as soon as schools closed in March.
It came as reports suggested just a quarter of primary schools will heed calls to reopen for reception and years one and six pupils from a week on Monday.
Some 50 councils are believed to be ready to defy the Government’s instructions, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Sir Michael told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday that ‘countries are opening up in Europe and so should we’.
But he added: ‘The government should have spent the past three months preparing the ground well, holding meetings with the teachers’ associations, parents associations and so on, to make sure that all the facts are there. Transparency is absolutely critical.
‘Parents need something to go on to make that balanced judgement and I’m not sure they have received that.’
Sir Michael Wishaw backed the Government’s plan for a phased restart from next Monday, saying the UK risked creating a ‘lost generation’ due to the months’ long closure.
Councils that refuse to reopen primary schools next week risk causing ‘lifelong damage’ to some of the country’s most deprived children, experts warned last night
He continued: ‘The critical thing is will parents feel confident to send their children into school safely?
‘That is the big issue. It is alright opening up schools but if parents lack that confidence then they are not going to send them in.
‘They must naturally be very apprehensive and worried and nervous about doing that.’
A source told the Telegraph last night that they are anticipating a small number of schools returning immediately ,saying: ‘You are not going to get a situation where you get 100 per cent of schools going back. You will probably only get 20 to 25 per cent first, but it will pick up.’
Meanwhile a new poll suggested teachers would be prepared to sacrifice some of their summer break to provide extra class time.
Six in 10 polled for the Sun on Sunday said they would be willing to work extra shifts to help struggling pupils.
Councils that refuse to reopen primary schools next week risk causing ‘lifelong damage’ to some of the country’s most deprived children, experts warned last night.
Primary pupils achieve below-average Statutory Assessment Test results in 13 out of the 23 councils that have bowed to pressure from militant teaching unions to boycott plans to bring back Reception, Year One and Year Six classes on June 1.
A Mail on Sunday investigation also found that 14 of the hardline local authorities – including Bradford, Bristol and Liverpool city councils – have a higher than average number of schools rated as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’ by Ofsted.
A survey of 151 local education authorities in England by the newspaper found that 23 authorities are strongly opposed to opening up classrooms on June 1, with some dismissing the target date as ‘impossible’ and ‘unworkable’.
They include some of the most deprived areas in the country, with primary pupils in Manchester, Hartlepool and Knowsley almost twice as likely to get free school meals, according to official figures.
Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, said: ‘We desperately need to get our most disadvantaged and vulnerable children back with their teachers as soon as possible.
‘Every extra week away from school increases the prospects of lifelong educational damage.’
Labour runs 17 of the refusenik councils, three are Tory-led and three have no overall control in their political make-ups.
Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, said: ‘We desperately need to get our most disadvantaged and vulnerable children back with their teachers as soon as possible’. Pictured: Tables marked at Kempsey Primary School in Worcester showing where pupils can sit
There are currently plans to bring back primary school pupils in Reception, Year One and Year Six classes on June 1
Alarmingly for the Government, only 18 councils which responded to our survey said they were planning to reopen schools next week.
A further 77 councils have told headteachers they can decide what to do, while 28 authorities did not give an answer to our questions.
Teachers, led by the National Education Union, have strongly resisted a return to school on safety grounds. Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have signalled that schools will remain closed until August at the earliest.
MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, said: ‘It is extraordinary to see that in these areas where there is significant under-performance, with disadvantaged children suffering the most from the lockdown, that so many Labour council leaders and Left-wing teachers are most unwilling to get these vulnerable children back into school.
‘They are potentially destroying these children’s life chances.’