The government has delayed the in-person return of secondary schools in England by one week.
The extra time is supposed to give schools time to set up mass testing, supported by the army.
Will schools return in January?
Secondary schools in England have been told to stagger their return after Christmas.
Pupils taking exams in 2021 will start back on 11 January, with other year groups returning in person on 18 January.
Most primary schools will return on 4 January, except in some areas in the south of England where there are particularly high infection rates. The list of areas where they will not open until 18 January is at the bottom of this page.
Clinically extremely vulnerable children and staff in Tier four “stay at home” areas of England are advised not to physically attend school.
The government wants secondary schools to bring in mass testing for staff and pupils. The army will now provide mass testing resources, including in-person support if necessary.
In Wales, there will be “flexibility” at the beginning of term, with teaching due to start in most places from 4 January. Schools are expected to offer face-to-face learning for most pupils by 11 January, with a full return by 18 January.
Welsh schools will offer rapid testing to children who have had close contact with someone with coronavirus.
Northern Ireland went into a lockdown after Christmas. Health officials have proposed limiting the reopening of schools in January, but they are currently scheduled to open as usual.
In Scotland, the Christmas holidays have been extended to 11 January, and the following week will be online learning only. Schools will, however, remain open for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
What happens if a pupil tests positive for coronavirus?
If someone tests positive, they must be sent home to self-isolate for 10 days.
The school must then contact their local public health protection team, who will advise on who else should be sent home.
Anyone who has been in close contact with the person testing positive must self-isolate.
What if my child has a cough or cold?
The NHS says the main Covid-19 symptoms are:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- the loss of, or change to, your sense of taste or smell
If a child shows these symptoms, they – and other members of their household – should self-isolate for 10 days and get tested if possible.
A runny nose is more likely to be a symptom of a cold, and is not a reason to get tested for coronavirus, says NHS Scotland.
Help from the NHS:
What precautions are schools taking?
Measures include hand sanitiser stations, one-way systems and staggered break times.
Improved cleaning procedures have been introduced, and social distancing wherever possible.
In England, younger children are being encouraged to mix in small groups or “bubbles” as they are unlikely to stay 2m apart.
Older children, such as those in secondary schools, are being encouraged to avoid touching one another as much as possible.
Do children have to wear face coverings at school?
Pupils and teachers in secondary schools and colleges in England and Wales must wear face masks in communal areas.
Scotland’s senior pupils (years S4-S6) and their teachers must also wear them in class in level 3 and 4 restriction areas.
In Wales, face coverings are recommended in high schools when social distancing is “unlikely to be maintained”.
In Northern Ireland, face coverings must be worn in the corridors of post-primary schools, and on school and public transport.
Will next year’s exams take place?
Scotland’s Higher and Advanced Higher exams have been cancelled for 2021, with final grades based on teacher assessment.
The Welsh government has cancelled next summer’s GCSE, AS and A-level exams, and grades will be based on classroom assessments.
In England, A-levels and GCSEs are due to go ahead with reduced content for some subjects, and later exam dates.
In Northern Ireland, A-level, AS and GCSE exams will start a week later than usual.
Areas of England where primary schools will not open for in-person learning until 18 January
Vulnerable children and children of key workers will still have in-person learning.
- Barking and Dagenham
- Hammersmith and Fulham
- Kensington and Chelsea
- Tower Hamlets
- Waltham Forest
- Epping Forest
- Castle Point
- Southend on Sea
- Tonbridge and Malling
- Tunbridge Wells
- Three Rivers