Businesses should not expect parents to be back at the office full time during autumn, headteachers warn

Camilla Turner
·2-min read
The Government must ask businesses to allow parents to continue to work part-time, academy boss says 
The Government must ask businesses to allow parents to continue to work part-time, academy boss says

Businesses should not expect parents to work full time at the office during the autumn, headteachers have said as they warn that schools may not run a full timetable.

Employers must be “flexible” in their demands for mothers and fathers to return to the workplace and should not assume that their children will be at school full-time, they said.  

Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis academy trust which runs 52 schools in England, said the Government must ask businesses to allow parents to continue to work part-time.

Even if schools start off by fully reopening in September, they will soon realise that they cannot “cram children in like sardines”, he said.

“The key thing is space, you can’t herd people into buildings which are just not big enough,” Mr Chalke said.

“You can split the day into a morning and an afternoon shift where half the school comes in at any one time.

“Or do a one week on, one week off, or even do a whole half-term on and half-term off.”

Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts which represents academies, said that businesses “will still need to be cognisant that the patterns of the school day might be different” particularly if there is a rise in transmissions leading to a local lockdown.

The Prime Minister said on Sunday that the country has a "moral duty" to get children back to school, adding that this is now a “national priority”.

Earlier this week, The Daily Telegraph revealed that schools are drawing up contingency plans to teach pupils on a "week on-week off" basis if there is a resurgence of coronavirus.

Some schools are planning to run a reduced timetable when they reopen in September and finish lessons early, telling parents that they need extra time to carry out enhanced cleaning to make the site Covid-secure.

A member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said that reopening schools is "one of the least risky things we can do".

Prof Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of Sage told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that allowing children to return to the classroom on a rota system with a week on, week off approach “appears to make very little difference to the overall risk”.

He explained: “The overall population R in fact, if you get the mitigations right ... then actually the rota systems appear to make very little difference and make little difference to the risk to teachers."