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‘Almost half’ of eligible children will not be in class as schools reopen today

Special measures: Desks at
Heath Mount Prep School in
Hertfordshire and (below) a
hand sanitising station at
the school

ALMOST half of eligible children are expected to be kept at home today despite schools in England being cleared to reopen, a study finds.

Around 46 per cent of families won’t allow children to go, a study of more than 1,200 headteachers for the National Foundation for Educational Research finds.

School leaders with the highest proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals estimate 50 per cent of families will keep pupils at home, compared with 42 per cent from those with the lowest proportion of free-meal pupils.

Just 45 per cent of parents whose childcare providers are opening today plan to take up their place, a separate poll by the Early Years Alliance finds.

Schools were told reception, year one and year two classes could re-open after Boris Johnson announced on Thursday the five tests for easing the lockdown had been met. These were ensuring the NHS could cope, a ‘sustained and consistent’ fall in deaths, infections decreasing to ‘manageable levels’, ensuring testing and PPE can meet demand and any future adjustments would not risk a peak.

However, Mary Boustead, joint head of the National Education Union, argued the five tests have not been met and accused ministers of revising plans to reopen schools 41 times since May 12.

Urging a delay until June 15, she told Sky’s Sophy Ridge the government had ‘given up on social distancing in schools’ and teachers thought it was ‘just making in up as it goes along’.

Floor marking: Headteacher David Waugh at Poynton High School in Cheshire PICTURE: REX

She said: ‘Those children live in families who will be able to go out and socialise with six other people.

Firing on all cylinders: Extinguishers are checked at a school in Stockport PICTURE: REX

‘We’re asking teachers, without PPE and without social distancing, to go into schools at a time when the rate of infection is still the fifth highest incidence in the world.’

Schools and nurseries closed ten weeks ago to all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.