England has entered a third national lockdown which has seen schools close to most pupils, except vulnerable children and children of key workers.
It comes as the country continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, with many hospitals facing pressure, while the daily case numbers in the UK topped 60,000 for the first time on Tuesday.
i’s education newsletter: news and analysis as schools try to return to normal
When did schools close?
Schools in England were ordered to close following the announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the evening of Monday 4 January.
Even though some schools were open on Monday with some pupils returning after the Christmas holidays, schools in England were told to close again from Tuesday 5 January to most pupils.
During his televised speech, Mr Johnson said: “Because we now have to do everything we possibly can to stop the spread of the disease, primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across England must move to remote provision from tomorrow, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.”
“Everyone will still be able to access early years settings such as nurseries.”
He added: “We will provide extra support to ensure pupils entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them while schools are closed and we will distribute more devices to support remote education.”
University lessons will also remain online until mid-February for all except future critical worker courses.
Different rules apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
When will schools reopen?
Primary and secondary schools are expected to provide remote learning until at least the February half term.
The half-term dates can vary depending on where you live, but for most it is from Monday 15 – Friday 19 February, which means schools are expected to be closed for at least six weeks.
But the date schools reopen will depend on the success of the lockdown measures, helped along by the start of the vaccination programme.
The lockdown itself is expected to be reviewed around 15 February, according to Cabinet minister Michael Gove, with any changes coming into effect from 22 February, but it is possible restrictions could continue beyond this date.
He told Sky News it was expected ministers would “review the progress that we’ve made” on 15 February.
He told the channel: “We can’t predict with certainty that we will be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing 15-22 February.
“What we will be doing is everything that we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated so that we can begin to progressively lift restrictions.
“I think it is right to say that as we enter March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions, but not necessarily all.”
How are exams affected?
Exams including GCSE and A-Level exams have been cancelled this year.
During his speech on Monday, Mr Johnson said: “We recognise that this will mean it is not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal.
“The Education Secretary will work with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is set to give a speech in the Commons later on Wednesday and is expected to unveil a package of support for young people.
Ahead of the speech, the Department for Education said: “Working alongside Ofqual, the department will consult on how to award all pupils a grade that reflects the hard work they’ve done and will continue to do.”
What are the lockdown rules?
A full guidance to the restrictions in place, as set out by the Government, can be found here, but here are the key measures at a glance:
- People must only leave the house for limited reasons, such as shopping for necessities such as food and medicine, providing care or voluntary aid, or medical reasons.
- Exercise will be allowed – preferably limited to once a day – with members of your household or support bubble or one other person from another household.
- People will be able to go to work if it is impossible to work from home, such as those in the construction sector or who are critical workers. All others must work from home.
- All primary and secondary schools and colleges move to remote learning, except for the children of keyworkers or vulnerable children, but early years settings such as nurseries and childminders can stay open.
- University students will not be allowed to return to campus and will be expected to study from home.
- Places of worship can remain open for individual prayers and communal worship, but weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are allowed only in exceptional circumstances,
- All non-essential shops, hairdressers and personal care salons must close, although supermarkets, pharmacies, off-licences, builders’ merchants and garden centres are among businesses which can stay open.
- Restaurants and other hospitality venues can continue with delivery or takeaway (excluding alcohol) – cinemas, skating rinks and bowling alleys must remain closed.
- Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and who were previously told to shield should stay at home and only leave for medical appointments and exercise.
- Visits to care homes can take place only with “substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows”.
- Playgrounds can stay open but gyms (indoor and outdoor), tennis courts, swimming pools and golf courses must close, and outdoor team sports will not be permitted – although the Premier League and other elite sports can continue.
- The buying and selling of houses can continue, but people should not ask others outside their support bubble to help them move.
- Overnight stays outside support bubbles and holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed, including staying in a second home or caravan.
— to inews.co.uk