The Prime Minister confirmed today (Monday 22nd February) that schools and colleges will be fully reopening to all children on Monday 8th March, with asymptomatic Covid-19 testing in place. University students on practical courses will also be able to return and resume face-to-face learning, which is vital for these practical courses. Wraparound childcare for primary and secondary pupils will also resume from the 8th March where necessary, to enable parents to access work, education or medical care.
Furthermore, protective measures across education will be strengthened, with students in Year 7 and above, as well as staff, wearing face coverings indoors, including in classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained – this measure will be reassessed at Easter. Students and staff are also advised to wear face coverings in other areas in schools where social distancing cannot be maintained.
The following measures will also be in place, centered around regular Covid-19 testing, which will be absolutely vital in keeping schools open and cases down:
- All primary school children will return on Monday 8 March. Primary school staff will continue to take two rapid COVID-19 tests each week at home.
- All secondary school and college students will take three COVID-19 tests as they return to the classroom from the 8 March at existing school testing facilities. Schools and colleges will have discretion on how to test students over that week to enable their return to the classroom. After the initial programme of three tests in school or college, students will be provided with two rapid tests to use each week at home.
- Secondary school and college staff will also be provided with two tests to use each week at home.
- University students on practical courses who need to access specialist facilities and equipment can return to in-person teaching and learning from Monday 8 March. Twice weekly testing will continue to be available for all on campus.
Through correspondence with constituents, I know how important it is to all University students, as well as their parents, that they are all able to return to University to resume face-to-face studies. I have been assured by colleagues in the Department for Education that the Government will review the options for timing their return over the Easter holidays. This will take account of the latest data and will then be a key part of the wider roadmap steps. Students and institutions will be given a week’s notice ahead of any return. The Prime Minister today expressed his sympathies for the “heroic” students who have had to sacrifice a large part of their ‘University experience’ over the last year, promising that the Government would continue to support students needing access financial, and other support, some of which can be found here:
The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP, said the following after the announcement:
“I know this is a moment that students and parents up and down the country have been waiting for, and I would like to take this opportunity to give my thanks to all education and childcare staff and parents who have worked so hard to make sure students have continued to receive a high-quality education throughout this lockdown.
“The testing of staff and students ahead of their return to secondary schools and colleges, alongside strengthened safety measures, should reassure families and education staff that extra measures are in place alongside the existing bubble system, enhanced hygiene and COVID secure precautions.
“We are all well aware that being back in school or college brings huge benefits to young people’s education, development and wellbeing. The classroom is the very best place for education and the return of face-to-face teaching for all pupils will be a welcome move for pupils and parents across the country.”
Public Health England is advising the existing range of safety measures in place in education settings remains appropriate – including bubble groups, staggering start and finish times, increasing ventilation and hygiene, regular testing and maintaining distance between adults where possible. Teachers should continue to be sensitive to the additional needs of their students, such as deafness, in deciding whether it is appropriate to wear a face covering.
Keeping schools open and protecting our children’s education has always been a priority for this Government throughout this pandemic, something I have always supported. Unfortunately, this was not possible during the difficult first couple of months of this year, but I am delighted to see the Government again prioritise the education of our children, as both a mother and an MP.
This is part of the wider roadmap for ending the current lockdown and restrictions on our society – more information on the announcement on this roadmap can be found here: https://www.mimsdavies.org.uk/news/roadmap-out-lockdown