Coronavirus: Which schools are reopening for pupils?


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Some pupils in England have started to return to the classroom, as the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

But when will schools fully reopen and how will pupils catch up with lost learning?

How will children catch up?

During lockdown, many schools have offered a limited curriculum online – relying on parents and guardians to supervise work.

Despite this, around a third of pupils are not engaging with the work they’ve been set, a survey of 3,000 leaders and teachers in England’s state schools suggested.

To help pupils in England catch up, the government has announced a £1bn fund.

Of this, £650m will be available to head teachers to provide tutoring sessions for small groups of primary and secondary pupils.

The remaining £350m will be spent on a national tutoring programme aimed at the most disadvantaged pupils.

To further support home learning, the BBC expanded its Bitesize website, which offers daily online lessons in English, maths and other core subjects.

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Who can attend secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges?

Secondary schools in England have been allowed to reopen for Years 10 and 12 since 15 June. Teaching of vulnerable children and those of critical workers in all year groups will continue.

But only a quarter of eligible pupils are allowed in school at any one time.

Students who do return are encouraged to travel separately and avoid public transport.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded that England’s secondary schools may not fully reopen until September “at the earliest”.

What about nursery and primary schools?

Plans to get all primary pupils in England back for four weeks before the summer holidays have been dropped.

But some nursery and pre-school children – plus pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 – started to go back on 1 June.

Not all schools have reopened, some due to local council advice and some because they don’t have the staff or space to safely accommodate pupils. Some parents have chosen not to send their children back.

On 11 June, 868,000 children in England – or 9.1% – are estimated to have been in classes.

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Media captionWatch video diaries from Year 6 students across England on their first week back at school

How will pupils catch up?

What about the rest of the UK?

Schools in Wales will reopen from 29 June to all age groups – but only a third of pupils will be in classes at any one time.

Schools and councils will make their own decisions over managing their return.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says early learning and childcare will be allowed to start up again in Scotland on 15 July.

Scottish schools will reopen at the start of the autumn term on 11 August, using a blended model, with some continued home-learning.

Some Northern Irish pupils preparing for exams and those about to move to post-primary schools will go back in late August, with a phased return for the rest in September.

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How does school differ now?

Plans in England include keeping classroom doors and windows open to encourage air flow, and introducing one-way systems around school buildings.

Here are seven other things that could be different:

  1. No more than 15 children per classroom
  2. Pupils asked to stay 2m (6ft 6in) apart where possible
  3. More regular hand washing
  4. Staggered break and lunch times, plus different arrival and departure arrangements
  5. Less sharing of equipment such as books and toys
  6. Parents should not gather at school gates or in the playground
  7. Carers should only enter school buildings by appointment

If any pupils or staff – or anyone they live with – develop coronavirus symptoms, they will be asked to stay away from school.

Is it safe to send my child to school?

The risk of coronavirus to pupils in the classroom is “very, very small, but not zero”, according to sources in the government’s scientific advisory group, Sage.

The group has published documents about the safety and impact of reopening English schools, which also say teachers would not be at above-average risk compared with other occupations.

Teachers’ unions have warned it is not safe to allow more children into primary schools.

The government acknowledges some schools are not ready to open, but says the necessary five tests for easing the lockdown in England have been met.

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Pupils attending school

in England, 21 May

Source: DfE/National Statistics (2019 school census)

Do I have to send my child to school?

It is not currently compulsory to send children to school.

This temporary arrangement – where usual sanctions do not apply – is expected to continue in England during the summer term.

What about exams?

Summer exams have been cancelled in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This includes GCSEs and A-levels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus primary school Sats national curriculum tests in England. In Scotland, Highers and Nationals will not be going ahead.

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says exams will take place in 2021 in England. “We are working with Ofqual and the exam boards on our approach to this,” he told MPs.

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CoronaVirus translator

What do all these terms mean?

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  • Antibodies test

    A medical test that can show if a person has had the coronavirus and now has some immunity. The test detects antibodies in the blood, which are produced by the body to fight off the disease.

  • Asymptomatic

    Someone who has a disease but does not have any of the symptoms it causes. Some studies suggest some people with coronavirus carry the disease but don’t show the common symptoms, such as a persistent cough or high temperature.

  • Containment phase

    The first part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which involved trying to identify infected people early and trace anyone who had been in close contact with them.

  • Coronavirus

    One of a group of viruses that can cause severe or mild illness in humans and animals. The coronavirus currently sweeping the world causes the disease Covid-19. The common cold and influenza (flu) are other types of coronaviruses.

  • Covid-19

    The disease caused by the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. It primarily affects the lungs.

  • Delay phase

    The second part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, in which measures such as social distancing are used to delay its spread.

  • Fixed penalty notice

    A fine designed to deal with an offence on the spot, instead of in court. These are often for driving offences, but now also cover anti-social behaviour and breaches of the coronavirus lockdown.

  • Flatten the curve

    Health experts use a line on a chart to show numbers of new coronavirus cases. If a lot of people get the virus in a short period of time, the line might rise sharply and look a bit like a mountain. However, taking measures to reduce infections can spread cases out over a longer period and means the “curve” is flatter. This makes it easier for health systems to cope.

  • Flu

    Short for influenza, a virus that routinely causes disease in humans and animals, in seasonal epidemics.

  • Furlough

    Supports firms hit by coronavirus by temporarily helping pay the wages of some staff. It allows employees to remain on the payroll, even though they aren’t working.

  • Herd immunity

    How the spread of a disease slows after a sufficiently large proportion of a population has been exposed to it.

  • Immune

    A person whose body can withstand or fend off a disease is said to be immune to it. Once a person has recovered from the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, for example, it is thought they cannot catch it again for a certain period of time.

  • Incubation period

    The period of time between catching a disease and starting to display symptoms.

  • Intensive care

    Hospital wards which treat patients who are very ill. They are run by specially-trained healthcare staff and contain specialist equipment.

  • Lockdown

    Restrictions on movement or daily life, where public buildings are closed and people told to stay at home. Lockdowns have been imposed in several countries as part of drastic efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Mitigation phase

    The third part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which will involve attempts to lessen the impact of a high number of cases on public services. This could mean the NHS halting all non-critical care and police responding to major crimes and emergencies only.

  • NHS 111

    The NHS’s 24-hour phone and online service, which offers medical advice to anyone who needs it. People in England and Wales are advised to ring the service if they are worried about their symptoms. In Scotland, they should check NHS inform, then ring their GP in office hours or 111 out of hours. In Northern Ireland, they should call their GP.

  • Outbreak

    Multiple cases of a disease occurring rapidly, in a cluster or different locations.

  • Pandemic

    An epidemic of serious disease spreading rapidly in many countries simultaneously.

  • Phase 2

    This is when the UK will start to lift some of its lockdown rules while still trying to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

  • PPE

    PPE, or personal protective equipment, is clothing and kit such as masks, aprons, gloves and goggles used by medical staff, care workers and others to protect themselves against infection from coronavirus patients and other people who might be carrying the disease.

  • Quarantine

    The isolation of people exposed to a contagious disease to prevent its spread.

  • R0

    R0, pronounced “R-naught”, is the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person. If the R0 of coronavirus in a particular population is 2, then on average each case will create two more new cases. The value therefore gives an indication of how much the infection could spread.

  • Recession

    This happens when there is a significant drop in income, jobs and sales in a country for two consecutive three-month periods.

  • Sars

    Severe acute respiratory syndrome, a type of coronavirus that emerged in Asia in 2003.

  • Self-isolation

    Staying inside and avoiding all contact with other people, with the aim of preventing the spread of a disease.

  • Social distancing

    Keeping away from other people, with the aim of slowing down transmission of a disease. The government advises not seeing friends or relatives other than those you live with, working from home where possible and avoiding public transport.

  • State of emergency

    Measures taken by a government to restrict daily life while it deals with a crisis. This can involve closing schools and workplaces, restricting the movement of people and even deploying the armed forces to support the regular emergency services.

  • Statutory instrument

    These can be used by government ministers to implement new laws or regulations, or change existing laws. They are an easier alternative to passing a full Act of Parliament.

  • Symptoms

    Any sign of disease, triggered by the body’s immune system as it attempts to fight off the infection. The main symptoms of the coronavirus are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

  • Vaccine

    A treatment that causes the body to produce antibodies, which fight off a disease, and gives immunity against further infection.

  • Ventilator

    A machine that takes over breathing for the body when disease has caused the lungs to fail.

  • Virus

    A tiny agent that copies itself inside the living cells of any organism. Viruses can cause these cells to die and interrupt the body’s normal chemical processes, causing disease.

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