UK/ 02 August 2020/ Source/ https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/
By Ed Southgate
SCHOOLS reopening is in the minds of millions of parents desperate to get their kids back to the classroom.
Here’s everything you need to know about when kids could be heading back to school.
Will schools reopen in September in the UK?
Primary schools and nurseries began to reopen on June 1 for children in reception, Years 1 and 6 and in nursery.
Secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges opened for face-to-face contact from June 15, which offers some clarity over preparation for important exams next year.
But now the attention has turned to what will happen for the next academic year.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson made an announcement in July of the Government’s plan to send all pupils back to school in September.
Minutes from a meeting of the Government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE) said planning for the reopening of schools should take place now.
It added that planning should take into account health and educational benefits.
Boris Johnson has promised to get all kids back to school by September, threatening the legal enforcement on parents who do not comply.
And Mr Williamson insisted in June that he would fight the teaching unions to get pupils back in the classroom for a September opening.
When are schools supposed to go back?
All schools are supposed to go back in the first week of September.
Could pubs and restaurants be forced to close?
Government scientists have warned this could well be the case.
Professor Chris Whitty said getting children back into the classroom is pivotal for the “wellbeing of our country” but that relaxing the rules further would “absolutely, inevitably” lead to a surge in infections.
He added that the country had “probably reached the near limits” of what can be reopened and suggested it means we would have to see trade-offs to open anything else.
It could mean that in order to reopen schools, which are thought to be low risk with a low transmission rate is thought, venues such as pubs may have to suffer.
Scientists said: “It is important to ensure that there will be enough ‘room’ in terms of the epidemic to open schools in September… there is a strong case for prioritising opening schools over other establishments.”
But in what could be seen as further clashes between scientists and ministers, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick insisted to Times Radio this is not a trade-off the Government would introduce.
He said: “We don’t have any plans to do that.”
How will social distancing work?
Evidence already suggests that the transmission rate in schools is low.
Minutes from a meeting of the Government’s scientific advisory group for epidemics (SAGE) confirmed this.
Documents said: “Regarding reopening of schools, SAGE reiterated its advice that there is a low risk to children’s health from Covid-19 and significant harms from schools being closed.”
The Department for Education issued guidelines on May 11, before the two metre rule was reduced to one metre plus, on how schools should enforce social distancing – including limiting class sizes to 15 students.
The main points were
- Children under two years need 3.5 metres squared per child, two-year-olds need 2.5 metres squared per child and children aged 3 to 5 years need 2.3 metres squared per child
- Ensuring any surfaces touched are cleaned several times a day
- A queuing system when parents arrive to picking up children, to limit contact with carers
- Enforcing that children with symptoms and staff who are symptomatic to not come in
- Ensure hands are washed regularly throughout the day and children are watched doing so
- Supplying disposable tissues throughout the setting to enforce “catch it, bin it, kill it” measures on spreading germs
- Arrange for children to be collected at the door if possible
- Limit visitors and keep windows open for ventilation
When schools reopened in June Boris Johnson admitted full social distancing may not be possible.
What other changes will schools see?
It is unclear exactly what could happen if and when schools reopen and there have been several suggestions flying around.
Schools have been ordered to put all year groups in “protective bubbles” to minimise contact and lessen the chance of transmission.
It would involve staggered start and end times and mean the whole bubble would be sent home to self-isolate if just one pupil caught the bug.
Teaching union NASUWT has called for teens and teachers to wear masks when learning but this was humiliatingly slapped down by Labour’s education chief Kate Green.
She said: “It is really important that people feel safe in school, but it is really important that children’s learning is supported.
“And of course masks do get in the way of some of the communication between teachers and their students.”
If there are two or more confirmed cases in a two-week period, health protection teams may ask a larger number of other children or young people to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure.
That could mean that whole year groups or even schools have to isolate.
Schools will be sent home test kits for any kids who fall ill to be able to take them as quickly as possible.
Any local outbreaks would see schools shut for everyone but key workers again – like in the early days of the pandemic back in March.
If a child has covid symptoms they should wait to be picked up in a room on their own with door closed and window open.
Teachers should wear PPE if they have to get close to someone who has suspected symptoms.
Schools are told to stagger lunch and break times, as well as drop-off and pick-up times, to reduce the number of pupils moving around at once.
They are also advised to look at bringing in a one-way system in corridors, or putting a divider in the middle to control the flow of kids.
Institutions are advised to remove all soft toys or any toys that are hard to clean.
When they reopened in June, the government told secondary schools and colleges to halve their classes.
That means that classrooms and workshops were rearranged “with sitting positions two metres apart.
“Where very small classes might result from halving, it would be acceptable to have more than half in a class, provided the space has been rearranged.
“Support staff may be drawn on in the event there are teacher shortages,” the advice added.
Williamson said if scientific advice proposed a “limited number” of children could be sent back to school, it was his duty to allow this to happen.
When did schools close and what has happened since?
- August 2 – Housing Minister Robert Jenrick insists the Government has no plans to close pubs to make way for schools opening
- August 1 – Scientists warn pubs may have to close for schools to reopen
- July 30 – All schools in Scotland will go back in three weeks, it is announced, putting pressure for English schools to return
- July 24 – Schools told to delay 11-plus test until late October
- July 20 – Boris Johnson handed schools a £2.2bn boost
- July 20 – Parents could face fines for not sending their child to school in September
- July 2 – It was announced schools must put pupils in “bubbles”
- July 2 – Gavin Williamson announced the Government’s plan to send all pupils back to school from September
- June 22 – Exams could be pushed back by two months next summer to help kids catch up
- June 15 – Secondary schools and colleges opened
- June 1 – Schools reopened doors for primary children other than key workers.
- May 28 – Mr Johnson confirmed schools will begin their phased reopening on June 1, with primary schools first followed by secondary schools.
- May 24 – The PM confirmed “we will be in the position to move to step two of the plan”, meaning some schools will reopen on June 1, with reception, year one and year six classes returning first.
- May 22 – Independent SAGE group warn that it is unsafe for schools to return on June 1
- May 20 – Justice Secretary Robert Buckland admits “doubts” schools will reopen on June 1
- May 19 – List of schools revolting against June 1 opening date grows, as towns in the North and Midlands vow to stay closed
- May 12 – Teaching union encourages school staff not to engage with June 1 plans, The National Education Union (NEU) advised members to tell headteachers they were “[awaiting] further advice from [their] union”
- May 11 – The Government publishes detailed plans on the return to school, and plans are announced for secondary school pupils facing exams to see teachers before sitting tests. The Government says they will “ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers”
- May 10 – Boris Johnson announces plans for years one and six to get to back to the classroom
- March 20 – Schools closed and it was announced GCSE and A Level exams would be awarded in August based on mock exam results, to much criticism
- March 18 – It’s announced all schools will be closed in two days, excluding for “vulnerable children” and kids of key workers