Coronavirus: When will schools reopen?

Coronavirus: When will schools reopen?

school classroom Image copyright Getty Images

When schools reopen fully in England in September, the government wants teachers to keep classes or whole year groups apart in separate "bubbles".

New guidance has been published for England. There are separate plans for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Who will be expected to go back?

Nearly all children of legal school age will be expected to return to class full-time in September to "start to reverse the enormous costs of missed education".

This includes those with special educational needs and disabilities, or who have been shielding during the pandemic.

Do I have to send my child back?

Attendance will be mandatory again from the beginning of the autumn term.

Head teachers will be told to follow up pupils' absence and issue sanctions, including fines in some cases.

But what if there is a Covid-19 cluster at a school?

If a school has a suspected coronavirus outbreak – with two or more confirmed cases within 14 days, or an overall rise in suspected coronavirus sickness absence – teachers will liaise with local health teams.

A mobile testing unit may arrive – focusing first on those in the affected child or teacher's class, followed by their year group, and then the whole school if necessary.

A large number of pupils may be asked to self-isolate at home as a precaution, but the government says a whole school closure "will not generally be necessary" unless advised by health officials.

Image copyright Getty Images

How will the school day work?

Schools will be asked to return "to a broad and balanced curriculum," Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Commons.

They will be asked to minimise the number of contacts each pupil has during the day, by keeping classes or whole year groups apart in separate "protective bubbles" rather than practising individual social distancing.

Schools must:

  • have strict hand-washing policies
  • promote the "catch it, bin it, kill it" approach when it comes to coughing and sneezing
  • step up cleaning arrangements
  • be ready to contact NHS Test and Trace

The government expects school kitchens to be open from September.

Image copyright Getty Images

What about getting to and from school?

There may be staggered start and finish times to keep groups apart – although that should not reduce the amount of overall teaching time.

Walking or cycling to school will be encouraged. Parents should not gather in groups at school gates or go on site without an appointment.

Public transport use should be kept to an "absolute minimum", especially at peak times.

Dedicated school transport services will be asked to:

  • Move children in "bubbles"
  • Provide hand sanitiser
  • Apply social distancing where possible
  • Ask children over 11 to wear face coverings

Schools will also need a process for staff and pupils to remove face coverings safely on arrival at school.

What about breakfast or after-school clubs?

If possible these should resume in September, but the government acknowledges it will be "logistically challenging" and may take longer for some schools.

Children should ideally stay within their year groups or bubbles – but if this can't be done then schools should use "small, consistent groups" to minimise the risk of infection.

What else does the government say?

  • Pupils should wear uniform as normal
  • Pupils should bring only essentials to school – including lunch boxes, books, stationery and mobile phones
  • Pupils and teachers can take books and other shared resources home, but must avoid unnecessary sharing
  • Non-contact physical education can take place – outside if possible – with "scrupulous attention" to cleaning and hygiene
  • GCSE and A-level students not happy with the calculated grades awarded this summer can resit in the autumn
  • GCSEs and A-levels will take place in summer 2021 but with adaptations to ensure fairness
  • Primary school assessments will happen as normal next summer
  • Ofsted inspections will remain suspended for the autumn term – but schools may be visited to assess how the new arrangements are working

Which children won't be back in class?

Pupils who are self-isolating will not be required to attend.

This will be because they have had symptoms or a positive test result themselves – or because they are a close contact of someone who has Covid-19.

Children who have been shielding – because they or someone in their household are clinically extremely vulnerable – will be expected to go to school in September.

Shielding advice for adults and children is due to pause in England on 1 August – subject to a continued decline in virus transmission rates.

The government says it expects this will mean "most staff" can go back to school.

If rates of the disease rise in a local area, shielding advice will be introduced once again – but only while local rates remain high.

Children who are not shielding, but who remain under the care of a specialist health professional, should discuss their ongoing care before September.

Schools should offer remote learning to children who are self-isolating or temporarily shielding.

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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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What do all these terms mean?

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