Boris Johnson’s plans for all primary school pupils in England to return to school by July has been dropped by the government.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson rowed back on government plans, saying “not all” children will be able to go back to classroom teaching for a full month before the summer.
The Prime Minister last month announced his “ambition” for all year groups to return to school for at least four weeks of teaching by July.
But initial plans are now no longer thought feasible, and primary schools will instead be given more “flexibility” over whether to admit pupils.
Williamson said: “While we are not able to welcome all primary children back for a full month before the summer, we continue to work with the sector on the next steps, where we’d like to see school’s who have the capacity, to bring back more children in those smaller class sizes, if they are able to do before the summer holidays.”
He added that school sizes had posed practical difficulties in meeting the requirements to restrict classes to so-called bubbles of 15 students.
It comes as official figures released today by the Department for Education showed that only 52 per cent of English primary schools opened last week, despite government plans for all Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils to return to school.
The education secretary told MPs in the House of Commons that the government is drawing up plans for primary pupils to return to normal teaching by September, but fell short of committing to a concrete timeline.
“We will be working to bring all children back to school in September,” he said.
The government is planning to allow secondary school pupils in Year 10 and Year 12 to receive “face-to-face teaching” from 15 June.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Our approach to schools throughout has been that we need to be cautious and the return needs to be phased. That will continue to be our approach.”
Williamson has been criticised for failing to deliver on his pledge to provide laptops to disadvantaged pupils.
The education secretary in April promised free laptops, tablets and 4G wireless routers, claiming it would “take the pressure off” parents to support children without access to online learning while schools remain shut.
However, parents and teachers across the country claimed yesterday they were “still waiting”.
Robert Halfon, Tory MP and chair of the education committee, said Williamson’s failure to meet the target would result in a “decade of educational employment”.
Williamson said 100,000 laptops have already been distributed to the most vulnerable pupils and a further 75,000 are set to be sent out in the next few weeks.
He added that the education department would take action to compensate pupils for their lack of education over the summer as a result of the virus.