The Government has announced a two-week delay in the return to school for most pupils in England.
The Education Secretary has announced that the majority of secondary school children in England will have an extended Christmas holiday, with only vulnerable children and those of key workers returning next week for face-to-face education.
Young people doing A Levels and GCSEs will have remote teaching for the first week of term to allow for testing and will return in the week of 11th. Other pupils will return in the week of 18th January to give schools the time to implement mass testing of pupils, supported by army advisers.
Primary school children will mainly return as normal, but in areas of high infection [but not all those in tier four] they will work remotely for the first two weeks. Those areas include London boroughs, large parts of Essex and Kent, parts of East Sussex and Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes. Vulnerable children and those of key workers will return as normal.
To support remote education and online learning during this period, the Government says it expects to deliver more than 50,000 additional devices to schools across the country on 4th January, and over 100,000 altogether during the first week of term. This programme is now being extended to include students aged 16-19 in colleges and schools.
The announcement by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson follows news that more areas of England will enter tier 4. In Scotland the school term begins on 11th January, with remote learning until at least 18th January. In Wales, it will be remote learning for most schools until the week of the 11th January with the rest being back to face-to-face teaching by 18th. In Northern Ireland, all schools will return at the start of term, but years eight to 10 will move to remote teaching from 25th January for at least two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Early Years Alliance criticised the lack of any mention of childcare providers in Williamson’s statement.
Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said: “While we note that newly-published DfE guidance confirms that childcare providers in the worst affected areas of the county are able to remain open as of next week, it beggars belief that during today’s critical statement to the House of Commons, the education secretary didn’t even bother to mention the early years sector once.
“Absolutely no information has been given as to the scientific basis for this decision, or why it has been deemed safe for nurseries and childminders to remain open, but not primary schools. This is something the education secretary could and should have taken the opportunity to provide during today’s announcement.”