All primary and secondary schools across England closed when the country moved into a third national lockdown in January.
Only vulnerable children and children of key workers are currently allowed to attend schools for face-to-face learning, with teachers providing remote learning for all other pupils.
While nurseries and existing childcare bubbles were allowed to stay in place, all schools in England are set to remain closed until the 8 March.
Here’s the latest on we know about schools reopening:
When did schools close?
Schools in England were ordered to close following the lockdown announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the evening of Monday 4 January.
Even though some pupils returned to school after the Christmas holidays that same morning, all schools in England were forced to close again from Tuesday 5 January onwards for most students.
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.”
Different rules apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
When will schools open?
Boris Johnson has unveiled the long-awaited lockdown exit strategy to MPs and the public on Monday 22 February as he made clear that the hard weeks of winter lockdown and the country’s vaccines programme have started to pay off with reduced infections, hospitalisations and deaths.
Lockdown will be lifted in four steps, with the first step split into two major milestone dates, on 8 and 29 March, and will be England-wide, meaning there will be no return to the regional tiered system.
Acknowledging that the pandemic has been especially hard on children, Mr Johnson confirmed that from 8 March, every school in England will reopen to all pupils after more than two months of homeschooling for most families.
In a significant boost to working parents, outdoor after school sports and activities will also restart.
Two people from different households will also be allowed to socialise in a park or other public outdoor space by having a coffee or picnic – activities not currently permitted under the outside exercise rule.
The second half of step one will come on 29 March, in time for the start of the Easter school holidays, with a major easing of the limits on social contact, underlining that the risk of transmission outside is significantly lower than indoors.
However, each further step will only go ahead if four key tests on keeping transmission low and the vaccines rollout on track are met, the PM will say.
These four tests are:
- the vaccine deployment programme is continuing successfully – including the flow of supplies;
- evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated;
- infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS;
- the government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new “variants of concern”.
Earlier this month, Mr Johnson recognised the “unique challenges” facing families at the moment, adding that parents have responded “magnificently”.
He told MPs: “The first sign of normality beginning to return should be pupils going back to their classrooms.”
Step-by-step lockdown roadmap
- From 8 March: All schools will open with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed. Socialising in an outdoor public spaces – such as a park – will be allowed between two people
- From 29 March: Return of the “Rule of Six”: Groups of larger than six from a maximum of two households will also be allowed to meet. Outdoor sport and leisure facilities, such as golf courses and tennis courts, will be allowed to reopen, and organised outdoor sport can resume for children and adults
Step 2 – From 12 April
- All non-essential retail can reopen
- Pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen, with outdoor seating only
- Gyms and other indoor leisure can reopen (limited to household groups)
- Hairdressers and other personal care businesses can open again
- Domestic holidays can resume (limited to household groups)
- Outdoor attractions like zoos and theme parks can reopen
- Weddings and wakes can have up to 15 people
- Libraries and community centres can reopen
- All children’s activities can resume, including indoor parent and children groups with up to 15 parents
- Tests will be conducted for larger events
Step 3 – From 17 May
- Rules of Six will come into effect indoors (subject to review)
- Indoor seating can resume in pubs and restaurants
- Indoor entertainment venues like cinemas and theatres can reopen
- Domestic overnight stays can resume
- Organised indoor adult sport can start again
- Weddings and other “significant life events” can include up to 30 people
- Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as performances, can resume
- Remaining accommodation can reopen
Step 4 – From 21 June
- Larger events can resume
- Night clubs can reopen
- No legal limits on social contact
— to inews.co.uk