Will schools be open?
All primary schools in England are due to return today [MON] as normal, except for those in all London boroughs, parts of Essex, Kent, East Sussex, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes, which will stay shut until Monday 18 January at the earliest.
Secondary school pupils taking GCSEs and A Levels this year are due to go back on 11 January, with the remaining years scheduled to return on 18 January.
i’s education newsletter: news and analysis as schools try to return to normal
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the new term has been delayed (see separate panel). This is all subject to an ongoing review of case numbers and other public health considerations.
Will schools offer covid-19 tests?
All secondary school pupils and staff will be offered tests before they go back, whether or not they have symptoms. The MoD is assisting with mass testing. There are no plans for mass testing in primary schools.
Are schools safe?
Coronavirus remains generally a mild illness for children, particularly those of primary school age, so schools remaining open is largely safe for pupils.
For teachers, the risk of infection is no greater than that for other key workers – but this means there is still a risk. Analysis by the Office for National Statistics from October found that 0.43 per cent of teachers tested positive, around the same proportion for other key workers.
However these figures date from before the new faster-spreading variant had taken hold, so the current number is likely to be higher.
Is transmission from pupils to families a risk?
This goes to the heart of calls for schools to close, because of the risk of children infecting their parents and other members of the community.
A study by a Sage task group in November, updated on 17 December by the government’s scientific advisory committee, found that children are more likely to bring the virus into their household than those aged over 17.
Teenagers aged 12 to 16 are nearly seven times as likely to be the first case in their household as those aged over 17. And children aged two to 16 are more than twice as likely to pass on the virus within their household as older family members.
Could all schools be closed if the current wave gets worse?
It’s possible, because the Prime Minister said on Sunday that the next few weeks were likely to be difficult and that further restrictions could be imposed.
The government has promised that schools will be the last sector to close, due to the impact on children’s education and mental health. But if the new variant is out of control, closing all schools, which reduces the rate of transmission by around 0.35, may be the only way to get R below 1.
— to inews.co.uk