"There is no substitute for a child learning in the classroom while being kept safe. Those not in school nor able to access learning remotely face a potential legacy of widening inequality that will be felt for years to come.
"However, there are many challenges that will continue to plague the sector following the Government’s announcement to lift restrictions for pupils in Reception, Year 1, and Year 6. Parents and school leaders need clarity on ensuring that this process is safe for their children, workforce, and communities. The Department for Education will know that school trusts are responsible for the health and safety of their staff: although the guidance states that temperature checks and personal protective equipment are unnecessary, the confidence of staff and parents who have spent months staying at home may be hard won without such checks in position.
"Free schools in particular will face additional challenges dealing with lower numbers of staff, and unique buildings - often with limited outdoor space - which in some cases will render following the latest guidance impractical.
"Though there is no easy solution, I am concerned that our most disadvantaged young people will suffer, and would welcome clarity from the Government on how they may be prioritised in the phased re-opening of schools.
"Simply, the longer these pupils stay out of school, the more the attainment gap widens. We know many free schools have a high number of disadvantaged students, meaning in some areas entire communities – those the Government hopes to ‘level up’ – are at risk of suffering.
"This period provides the education sector with an opportunity to reassess how schools can provide all children, regardless of their background, with better life chances than those of their predecessors. That is the true challenge, and one on which the Government will be judged by future generations."