Schools to reopen on March 8
It comes as a new “catch-up” tsar who will run a task force to oversee plans for children to have one-to-one tuition and summer school was appointed by Mr Johnson on Feb 3.
The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has confirmed that schools will receive a two-week notice period before they reopen in order to allow staff to prepare for the return of pupils.
Mr Johnson’s optimism on school reopening is built on the success of the vaccination programme, as more than 17 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine in the UK as of Feb 20. The daily case rate continues to stay at levels not seen since before the second wave, as 12,027 positive cases were also recorded on Feb 19.
What are the rules for children of key workers and vulnerable children?
The Department for Education said children with at least one parent or carer who was a critical worker could attend class – even if parents were working from home.
Those entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them during closures, according to Mr Johnson.
A DfE spokesman said: “Schools are open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. We expect schools to work with families to ensure all critical worker children are given access to a place if this is required.
“If critical workers can work from home and look after their children at the same time then they should do so, but otherwise this provision is in place to enable them to provide vital services.”
Vulnerable children could include “pupils who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home” due to a lack of devices or a quiet space to study, according to the advice.
But government guidance says parents who choose to keep children out of class will not be penalised.
What is the Government planning to help children catch up?
The Government has appointed an education recovery tsar, Sir Kevan Collins, to address the amount of learning children have missed out on during the pandemic.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government’s immediate focus must be on education, and Sir Collins will head up a team of experts who will draw up proposals on how to help children catch up.
One-to-one tuition for pupils and summer schools are reportedly being discussed, and Department for Education (DfE) officials are said to be studying the evidence and cost-effectiveness of adding on extra classes at the beginning and end of the day.
In an interview with the BBC, Sir Kevan said: “I think we need to think about the extra hours not only for learning, but for children to be together, to play, to engage in competitive sport, for music, for drama because these are critical areas which have been missed in their development.”
He said teachers will need to be asked “to increase learning time for children”.
What do tiers mean for schools?
The new lockdown measures mean the entire country will be subject to the same tougher measures, including the closure of all schools. This means the tier system is not currently in place.
However, the Prime Minister has suggested that England will return to the regional tier system at the end of lockdown, meaning that schools can reopen if tier rules remain the same. However, sources have suggested that tiers could apply to the whole country, rather than geographical area.
Officials are believed to be prioritising the reopening of schools before any other relaxation of restrictions, such as the reopening of hospitality and allowing family and friends to meet in outdoor settings.
Read more on the previous tier system:
Are there any changes to exams?
The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced on Jan 6 that GCSE, A-Level and AS exams will not take place this summer.
However, internal exams may be used as a resource “to support their assessments of students”, although teachers will provide the final grades.
While teachers’ predicted grades will still be used, the exams may be necessary so that teachers can “draw on this resource to support their assessments of students”, he said.
So far, there has been no official announcement from the Education Secretary on reinstating exams.
Edexcel’s parent company Pearson has launched a review into British qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds, saying the pandemic has forced everyone to “adapt and rethink” how to assess young people.
How will testing in schools work?
The Telegraph disclosed that parents will be asked to test their secondary school children when they return to school.
Parents will be provided with lateral flow tests to carry out the tests twice a week, with every pupil being tested upon return to school, which is expected to be staggered by some year groups.
It is understood that schools will only oversee the mass testing of secondary students once, at the start of term, after education unions struck a deal with ministers from the Department for Education (DfE).
In January, the Government halted plans for daily testing for secondary school pupils and teachers instead of isolation if they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive.
Public Health England said it had “reviewed” its advice and found that the balance between the risks and benefits of a daily testing programme in schools is “unclear”. But it confirmed that the other part of the testing plan – the two tests a week for pupils and teachers – will still go ahead.