MILLIONS of children will have their return to classrooms delayed after infections from the new Covid strain spiralled out of control.
Gavin Williamson announced today primary and secondary schools in Covid hotspots will stay closed until at least January 18 – with most other pupils facing a staggered return.
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Mr Williamson stressed this afternoon it was the Government’s top priority to protect kids’ education.
But he said the super contagious new strain has made it difficult to do this safely without risking Covid infections spreading even further.
Expected return dates for schools
Most primary schools: Open on January 4 as planned
Key exam years: return on January 11 as planned
Secondary schools: Delayed until January 18 (due to go back on January 11)
Covid hotspots: all primary and schools stay shut except for key workers and vulnerable kids. No timetable, but likely to be beyond January 18
Primary schools in almost 50 areas, most in the South East of England, will be forced to stay closed.
Mr Williamson said today they would review the data regularly, and open the schools as soon as possible.
Though, they will not be able to open before January 18 and will likely need to stay closed into February as ministers try to wrestle back control of the virus.
A string of secondary schools in the worst-hit areas will also need to stay closed beyond January 18, when all other year groups are set to return.
However, the Government is yet to publish a full list of schools that will not be able to reopen.
Areas where primary schools will close
- 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
Vulnerable kids are able to return to school from January 4 – no matter what year group they are in or where they live.
This means include kids who have an education, health and care plan, or who has a social worker.
It can also include children who have been classed by their school or local authority as being “vulnerable”.
It has been vital to ensure at-risk children are looked after throughout the coronavirus crisis, and vulnerable kids have been able to remain in schools throughout the year.
Key worker kids
Children of all ages whose parents are key workers will return to school with vulnerable kids on January 4.
Key workers including NHS staff or people working in other essential industries – including supermarkets and social care staff.
Schools have stayed open throughout the pandemic to ensure kids of essential workers are not left at home while their parents are unable to care for them.
Primary school kids
Primary school children in most parts of England will also be able to return on January 4 – apart from those in Covid hotspots.
Younger children are much less likely to spread coronavirus – even with the new mutant strain.
That means they will be part of the first age groups able to return to class.
Mr Williamson stressed today it was vital to get young kids back in school.
He said: “We know how vitally important it is for younger children to be in school for their education, wellbeing and wider development.”
Years 11 and 13
Kids preparing to sit their GCSEs and A-levels will be able to return on January 11.
Mr Williamson said it was crucial these students were given face-to-face time with teachers so they can adequately prepare for exams.
The Education Secretary has said exams will go forward this year – despite Scotland and Wales scrapping them.
But some secondary schools will stay shut in the worst-affected areas.
The Government is yet to publish a list of which areas will be forced to stay closed.
Secondary school kids
Most secondary school kids will only be able to return to school on January 18.
This is so that testing centres can be set up in schools so older students can be swabbed for the virus.
But, again, secondary schools in a handful of Covid hotspots will not be able to return.
The Government is yet to publish a full list of which schools will not be able to reopen.
The new strain was running rampant through older kids – especially in London and the South East before Tier 4 lockdown was introduced.
And there are fears it could spread out of control as kids come back from the holidays.