Sequence the latest government guidance, we ask: when schools reopen to all year groups what special provisions will be made?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that all children – across nurseries, primary and secondary schools, and colleges – will be back at school from September "on a full-time plan".

His words echo Education Secretary Gavin Williamson's promise to get all children back to school by the start of the next term. 


 
The Government has released guidelines for the new measures to be introduced, including: classes arranged into "bubbles", strict behaviour regimes, banning choirs and assemblies and even overhauling the curriculum. 


How will the school curriculum change?
Schools have been directed to teach an "ambitious and broad curriculum in all subjects" from the start of the autumn term, but also to find time to cover the most important missed content. In particular, that may mean emphasising reading in all subjects as a way of improving that core skill. It is possible that children in Year 7 might need to be retaught parts of the English and maths syllabus from their final year at primary school.  But even where there have been modifications to the timetable, by next summer, schools should have returned to teaching their normal curriculum. 

Relationships and health education (RHE) for primary aged pupils and relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) for secondary aged pupils becomes compulsory from September 2020, and schools are expected to start teaching this by at least the start of the summer term 2021.

Students will be quizzed regularly to ensure they have a full grasp of the curriculum, and the government recommends a "broad and ambitious" curriculum, including a wide range of subjects. 

Teachers have also been told that they must incorporate remote learning into their lesson plans, as it may need to be an "essential component" of a child's learning if there is a local lockdown and a school is closed down. Schools have also been told to have a contingency plan in place for remote learning by the end of September at the latest, incorporating high quality online resources and teaching videos, as well as printed worksheets and textbooks for those who do not have computers. Remote learning must also be delivered for children who are shielding or continuing to self-isolate at home. 


All league tables have been suspended for the next academic year. GCSEs and A Levels will take place in summer 2021, but with some "adaptions" which will "free up teaching time". Ofqual has reported that no major changes are expected to be made regarding exam content, style or standards. There will also be GCSE and A Level exams this autumn for students wishing to appeal against the predicted grades they are given this summer. 

How else will school be different when kids go back?
As well as overhauling the curriculum, the government has altered its approach to social distancing within school walls. Students will not need to socially distance – instead, they will be grouped into "bubbles" (either in classes or year groups) and these students will have their lessons, breaks and lunchtimes together. This approach reduces the risk of transmission and, if a pupil does get Covid-19, also limits the number of pupils who would need to self-isolate. 

If there is an outbreak in a school (defined as two or more cases of coronavirus, or overall rise in sickness and absence where Covid-19 is suspected to be the cause, within two weeks) the school will need to liaise with their local health protection team who will advise on whether further action is needed. This could include asking a number of pupils to stay at home and self-isolate (which would be for 10 days, as opposed to seven, if they showed symptoms) or encouragement for pupils and teachers to be tested – but school closures will "not generally be necessary". 

Children will not have to wear face masks but the Children’s Commissioner has joined Labour and teacher unions in questioning the Government’s guidance. Anne Longfield said that she “wouldn’t rule out” the use of masks by secondary school pupils if it “gives people confidence” and means schools will stay open.

Classroom layouts will also be adapted. Instead of facing each other, all pupils will face the front of the classroom. Windows will be kept open where possible, and any unnecessary furniture removed to optimise space. 

Assemblies and communal activities, such as prayer, will be banned. School choirs and ensembles (including playing brass or wind instruments) are also prohibited, as the government guidelines warns of an "additional risk of infection".

Lunch and break times will be staggered, with each bubble needing to stay apart from other children as much as possible. School canteens will be allowed to open, but tables and chairs must be wiped down after use by each bubble of pupils.

Schools will also stagger start times for pupils, and ensure that they don't coincide with rush hour. Parents will be told not to congregate by the school gates. 

After almost six months at home, the government anticipate an increase in children's bad behaviour, so recommends schools try to "reintegrate" children into school life. Children can be expelled – but only as a last resort.

School uniform is expected to be worn although schools are advised to bear in mind that some families will be under financial pressure.  Thankfully there are no special instructions regarding keeping uniforms clean.

Day trips can resume from September as long as standard Covid-19 guidance is followed, but overnight stays in the UK or abroad are off the table. 

 
Will parents be fined if their children don't go back? 
Although, penalties were suspended when the pandemic began, the guidance has changed and usual rules will apply.  So parents must send their children to school regularly and schools may issue fixed penalty notices if they don't.

What’s happening with private schools? 
Private schools don't fall under the jurisdiction of the Department for Education, so although they are expected to follow Government guidelines, they have been able to set their own rules for reopening. 

Initially, private schools were asked to cap the students allowed into their buildings at 25 per cent. Independent schools lobbied ministers against this, arguing that they tend to have smaller class sizes than state schools and, often, larger buildings.

“The Government seems to have made these plans based on large secondaries with year groups of 200 pupils,” said Neil Roskilly, chef executive of the Independent School Association (ISA). “But if you are a small private with 40 children in the year, just bringing back a small proportion of that doesn’t make sense.” 

However, some schools will never be able to open again. As many as 30 British private schools are preparing to close down indefinitely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, often citing parents' struggles to pay fees. 

Controversy surrounding GCSEs and A-levels
As GCSE and A-level exams were cancelled this year, teachers were instead put in the tricky situation of having to predict what their Year 11 and 13 students would have achieved, had they sat their exams.

This process is controversial – not only does it create setbacks for those students who would have "pulled it out of the bag" on the day of their exam, but it also does not acknowledge teachers’ unconscious bias towards students, relating to their gender, ethnicity and background. 

The need for these grades to follow a certain data pattern for the school has also led people to question whether this system is fair. 

Public divide: should kids be going back to school?
Although most parents and teachers support schools opening fully in September, a Lancet study has warned that without a national Track and Trace programme, the result could be a second wave of Covid-19 more than twice the size of the first. 

But the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has said it is “ridiculous” that schools are opening after other parts of the economy – noting that children “could have spent two and a half months browsing Primark, but not been in school”. 

Meanwhile, unions are warning that the Government must have a "Plan B" in case of a national second wave; this might include plans for "blended learning", in which some education takes place at school and some at home.

Unions have also said that schools should teach pupils on a "week on-week off" basis if there is a resurgence of coronavirus.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "If you want to limit the number of children on site or travelling to and from school, a big part of that is using rotas and the obvious way to do it is 'week on-week off'."  

Children missing out on education
Boris Johnson announced on June 19 that the Government will pay for private tutors for children who have fallen behind during lockdown as part of a £1 billion "catch-up" plan.

Schools will be given money to hire in-house tutors who can run extra classes for small groups of pupils throughout the academic year.

Two million children have done almost no home learning during lockdown, according to a study from University of London’s Institute of Education. The study, which assessed 4,500 households in the UK, found one in five pupils in the UK either did no home schoolwork at all or less than one hour a day. 

This could be partly due to the standard of teaching in lockdown, which varies from school to school – with independent schools often offering a full timetable, and many state schools offering worksheets online with no teacher interaction for three months and counting. An estimated four million students have not had regular contact with their teachers, according to an academic study. 

Those from disadvantaged backgrounds have been hardest hit, according to the UCL research. The poorest children, defined as those eligible for free school meals, did the least schoolwork at home; only one in 10 spent more than four hours a day on schoolwork, compared to almost one in five of their wealthier classmates. 

The attainment gap: long-term implications of lockdown
Lockdown learning has widened the attainment gap between rich and disadvantaged children, and an “immense” number of children will fail to reach their potential, according to the Children’s Commissioner. 

Anne Longfield said that the closure of schools has had a particular impact on children from deprived backgrounds and could lead to them dropping out of education forever. 

When pupils do finally return to school, wealthier children from primary schools will have received seven days’ worth of extra home learning, according to a recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Remarking on this phenomenon on Sky News, Michael Gove said the longer children were not in school, “the more the divide between those children who are in privileged circumstances and those children who are in less privileged circumstances grows”. 

Looming mental health crisis
Parents might believe the threat of Covid-19 is a reason to keep their child at home, but in doing so they might expose them to another health problem: mental ill health. 

A recent review by the University of Bath found that young people, between the ages of four and 21, who have experienced loneliness during lockdown are up to three times more likely to develop depression, and the impact could last for at least nine years. 

As such, Dr Gavin Morgan told The Sunday Telegraph that schools remaining shut is “100 per cent worse” for children than coronavirus. “We know how important play is for children’s development,” he said. “If they can’t play with their friends, their mental health is going to suffer.” 

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