Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that schools, colleges and nurseries will reopen to all on a full-time basis from September.
Mr Johnson confirmed the news in his latest briefing on Friday 17 July, as he revealed a roadmap for a “return to normality” in England by November.
How will young people be kept safe at school?
The UK government confirmed that current restrictions on group sizes will be lifted to allow educational institutions to fully reopen, as coronavirus infection rates continue to fall.
For nurseries, childminders, and other early years providers, restrictions on group sizes will be lifted from 20 July, increasing capacity from the start of the summer holiday.
However, schools, colleges and nurseries must keep Covid-19 secure measures in place to help minimise the risk of transmission between children and teachers once they reopen. This will include keeping children and young people in consistent class or year group ‘bubbles’ in schools, and encouraging older children to keep their distance from each other and staff wherever possible.
These guidelines are to be implemented alongside other protective measures, including regular cleaning and handwashing, reducing the use of frequently shared items and minimising contact in corridors.
The government will also provide schools and colleges with home testing kits for both staff and children who would otherwise be unable to get a test.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “We have already seen more than 1.5 million children and young people return, but we must make sure all pupils can go back to school in September, giving them the opportunity to thrive and fulfill their potential.
“I want to reassure parents and families that we are doing everything we can to make sure schools, nurseries, colleges and other providers are as safe as possible for children and staff, and will continue to work closely with the country’s best scientific and medical experts to ensure that is the case.”
Universities are also working to reopen to students as fully as possible.
What if there is a local outbreak?
In the event where there is a local outbreak in a school or college, the Public Health England (PHE) will advise on the appropriate action.
This may involve small groups or young people and staff being asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days. Where there are two or more confirmed cases in a two week period, health protection teams may ask a larger number of children or young people to self-isolate as a precautionary measure.
If an outbreak in a school is confirmed, a mobile testing unit may be dispatched to test others who may have been in contact with the person who has tested positive. Testing will first focus on the individuals’ class, followed by their year group and later the whole school, if it is deemed necessary.
Schools and colleges have been advised by the government to put plans in place to ensure education will continue for pupils if such circumstances occur, enabling access to remote learning.
How will pupils catch up on their education?
To ensure pupils can catch up on lost learning, schools will be required to resume teaching a broad and balanced curriculum in all subjects to address any gaps in knowledge. This will work alongside the financial support provided to primary and secondary schools through the government’s £1 billion Covid catch-up package.
Exams will take place in 2021, and Ofqual is currently consulting on arrangements for those examinations, including measures to mitigate any impact on pupils from time out of school.
Alongside this, Ofsted will carry out visits to schools in the autumn term to discuss how they are supporting pupils’ return to education, with routine inspections planned to restart in January 2021.