Return to school: England’s timetable for new year

When will most children be allowed back into schools in England?
That depends on the age of the children, where they live and whether or not next summer they are taking national exams such as GCSEs. The government expects schools and colleges to have fully reopened from 18 January.

Are schools in England closed?
No. In all cases schools will remain open to allow staff to conduct remote learning, and to help secondary schools prepare for mass virus testing of staff and pupils. There is a national exemption for children classed as vulnerable by the government and for those with a parent who is a key worker; they will be able to attend school in person regardless of the status of other pupils.

Which children in England will be able to go back to school next week?
Only vulnerable children and those of key workers will be able to attend secondary schools and colleges during the first week of term, from 4 January. For most primary school-aged pupils, schools mainly will be open, except those in one of the 50 local authorities termed “contingency frame areas” with high rates of Covid transmission. These schools will stay closed to most pupils until 18 January.

What is the reopening timetable for secondary schools?
From 4 January pupils taking national exams (mainly in years 11 and 13) will be taught remotely. Other year-groups might be taught remotely, according to the DfE guidance to headteachers saying schools “should provide some remote learning where possible”. From 11 January those taking exams (mainly years 11 and 13) will return for in-person teaching, while other year-groups will be taught remotely. Schools are to test pupils for Covid infection at least twice during this period, meaning that all year-groups will be asked to attend for the tests.

So all back to normal by 18 January?
Maybe. The government said it would by then have reviewed the contingency frame areas, so secondary and primary schools in affected areas could stay closed to in-person teaching for the rest of January.

What about students with exams at the start of term?
Students with BTec external assessments or similar exams scheduled for the first two weeks will be able to attend in-person if required. Secondary schools are likely to reschedule any mock exams (for national exams), such as GCSEs and A-levels, to 11 January or later.

What about school nurseries?
Nurseries will be open, although those attached to a primary school in one of the contingency areas will also have the option of closing.

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