Schoolzone | Primary staff: on re-opening

Primary staff: on re-opening

Date: 08.06.2020

We surveyed 3,000 school staff on Friday, at the end of the first week ‘back’ for primaries (many schools having never fully closed) to ask about attendance and safety measures in place and, of all staff, about workload and wellbeing. Here are some of the immediate findings from the survey. This is part of our ongoing series of studies, in conjunction with Durham University, looking at the effect of Covid on schools. See various posts and reports here.


Comments from primary teachers about how they feel at the end of the first week are published in full here.



60% of primary schools opened to more children last week. Only half of these were fully open, Monday to Friday; around one in five are open  for a limited number of days and the remainder are offering a range of alternative scheduling.

In these re-opened primary schools, just under half of Y6 pupils were back in school - ie 30% of the expected cohort, with only 25% of the early years cohort attending.

A quarter of primary teachers still weren’t back in school in last week, while a third were in school but working fewer hours than normal. 16% were working more hours than normal: the median number of hours worked last week in primary schools was 40.


Safety measures

Only 10% of re-opened primary schools are operating a test, track and isolate system for all pupils (this was one of the ‘essentials’ for re-opening from an earlier survey), while a further 15% are routinely testing for symptoms, such as taking temperature.


At least three quarters of schools have implemented:

  • Limiting class size
  • Safe distancing (85% using 2m, 15% using 1m)
  • Scheduled handwashing
  • Limitations on sharing resources
  • Frequent cleaning of surfaces
  • Keeping just one teacher (as far as possible) with one group of children for the whole day
  • ‘Bubbles’ of children taking break, lunch and arriving/departing together


The median class size is currently 15: with less than half the cohort of children attending, this presumably means that schools are currently managing this relatively easily, with normal staffing in re-opened year groups.

The median bubble size is 13, but two thirds of schools are limiting bubble size to be the same as class size, mostly 15, which suggests that in effect, only a third of primary schools are currently operating anything significantly different from simply teaching the children who are attending, in their normal classes.


48% of primary staff feel that these measures are keeping children safe, (10% think they aren’t) and 37% feel they are keeping staff safe – though almost a quarter think they aren’t keeping staff safe.


Emerging findings report here.

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