Family & Education

Coronavirus: When are schools reopening?

Two pupils working at a desk Image copyright Getty Images

Some schools in England are due to reopen from Monday 1 June.

Exact rules will vary, but head teachers have been working out how best to minimise risks for pupils, staff and parents.

How will school be different?

Plans include keeping classroom doors and windows open to encourage air flow, and introducing one-way systems around school buildings.

Here are eight other things that could look different when children return:

  1. Expect no more than 15 children in a classroom - kept apart from others - similar to Denmark's "protective bubble" approach
  2. Pupils will be asked to stay 2m (6ft 6in) apart where possible - but this will be more challenging with younger children
  3. They will wash hands more often than normal - for at least 20 seconds
  4. Expect staggered break and lunch times, and arrival and departure times
  5. There will be less sharing of things, such as books and toys, and fewer opportunities for taking them home
  6. Parents will be told not to gather in the playground or enter school buildings to drop off or collect children
  7. They will be able to enter school buildings only by appointment
  8. Gathering at school gates to talk to other parents will be discouraged

If any pupils or staff - or anyone they live with - develop coronavirus symptoms, they will be advised to stay away from school.

Which school years are going back?

The plan is for nursery and pre-school-age children - plus Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 - to go back first in England.

But not every primary school will be opening. A BBC Breakfast survey of 150 councils revealed many are not guaranteeing this.

Only 20 out of the 99 who responded said they were advising schools to open more widely on 1 June. These were:

  • Barnsley, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole, Central Bedfordshire, Dudley, Essex, Kensington & Chelsea, Medway, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, North Yorkshire, Portsmouth, Rutland, Solihull, South Gloucestershire, West Sussex, Westminster and Wolverhampton.

Another 15 said they would not be advising schools to open their doors to more pupils. These were:

  • Blackburn, Brighton & Hove, Bury, Calderdale, Cheshire East, Cheshire West & Chester, East Riding, Knowsley, Leicester, Newcastle, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Trafford and Wirral.

Two-thirds (68) could not guarantee schools would reopen to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

Which children will be prioritised?

Head teachers have been told to focus first on providing places for priority pupils - vulnerable children and those of critical workers - in all year groups.

Previously, critical workers were being urged to send their children to school as only a last resort - but attendance is now "strongly encouraged".

The government has also published guidance for children who may have special educational needs or a disability.

Image copyright Getty Images

Is it safe to send my child to school?

The risk of coronavirus to pupils in the classroom is "very, very small, but not zero", according to sources in the government's scientific advisory group, Sage.

The group has published documents on the safety and impact of reopening schools in England, which also say teachers would not be at above-average risk compared with other occupations.

But there is much uncertainty throughout the advice, and the group "cannot be clear" on the extent schools could be reopened without leading to cases of Covid-19 taking off again.

Teachers' unions have warned it is not safe to allow more children into primary schools. And on Sunday, Boris Johnson accepted some schools would not be ready to open.

But on Thursday, Mr Johnson confirmed that the government's five tests for easing the lockdown in England have been met, which will allow more youngsters to return to school.

Getty Images
Pupils attending school

in England, 21 May

  • 244,000(approximate)

  • 8,819,765on a normal school day

Source: DfE/National Statistics (2019 school census)

What about secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges?

The government says secondary schools in England will be able to open doors to Year 10 and Year 12 from Monday 15 June.

But only a quarter of pupils from those years will be allowed in school at any one time.

Pupils will be encouraged to avoid mixing with each other on journeys to and from school - and to walk or cycle rather than use public transport.

Teaching of vulnerable children and those of critical workers in all year groups will continue.

What about the rest of the UK?

Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, says schools there will open on 11 August - the beginning of the autumn term - using a blended model, with some continued home-learning.

Schools in Wales will not reopen on 1 June. Its education minister has said schools will return only when it is "the right time and it is the right thing to do".

Some pupils in Northern Ireland will return to school in late August, with a phased return for the remainder.

Image copyright Getty Images

Do I have to send my child to school?

It is not currently compulsory for any parent to send their children to school.

It is expected that this temporary arrangement - where usual sanctions do not apply - will continue in England during the summer term.

As of 22 May, about 244,000 children were attending school in England - that's 2.6% of the total number of pupils.

That figure included 75,000 "vulnerable" children - which the Department for Education estimates to be 15% of all young people in that category.

What's happening in other countries?

  • Primary schools in Denmark have been open since April, teaching children in small groups
  • In Germany, schools have been partially reopened for young children and those taking exams
  • Some French schools began reopening this month - a limit of 15 pupils has been put on classes, and masks are compulsory for older children
  • Schools in the Republic of Ireland, Italy and Spain are expected to stay shut until after the summer holidays

What if my child will still be learning at home?

"No-one expects parents to act as teachers, or to provide the activities and feedback that a school would," says the government advice - adding that schools remain responsible for children's education.

Teachers have tried to continue a limited curriculum online, relying on parents and guardians to supervise.

To support home learning, the BBC has also launched a major programme of expanded educational content on its BBC Bitesize service, including regular daily lessons in English, maths and other core subjects.

Image copyright PA Media

What about exams?

Summer exams have been cancelled in England, Wales and Scotland. This includes GCSEs and A-levels in England and Wales, plus primary school Sats national curriculum tests in England. In Scotland, Highers and Nationals will not be going ahead.

Exam watchdogs have been working together on alternative arrangements.

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CoronaVirus translator

What do all these terms mean?

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  • Antibodies test

    A medical test that can show if a person has had the coronavirus and now has some immunity. The test detects antibodies in the blood, which are produced by the body to fight off the disease.

  • Asymptomatic

    Someone who has a disease but does not have any of the symptoms it causes. Some studies suggest some people with coronavirus carry the disease but don't show the common symptoms, such as a persistent cough or high temperature.

  • Containment phase

    The first part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which involved trying to identify infected people early and trace anyone who had been in close contact with them.

  • Coronavirus

    One of a group of viruses that can cause severe or mild illness in humans and animals. The coronavirus currently sweeping the world causes the disease Covid-19. The common cold and influenza (flu) are other types of coronaviruses.

  • Covid-19

    The disease caused by the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. It primarily affects the lungs.

  • Delay phase

    The second part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, in which measures such as social distancing are used to delay its spread.

  • Fixed penalty notice

    A fine designed to deal with an offence on the spot, instead of in court. These are often for driving offences, but now also cover anti-social behaviour and breaches of the coronavirus lockdown.

  • Flatten the curve

    Health experts use a line on a chart to show numbers of new coronavirus cases. If a lot of people get the virus in a short period of time, the line might rise sharply and look a bit like a mountain. However, taking measures to reduce infections can spread cases out over a longer period and means the "curve" is flatter. This makes it easier for health systems to cope.

  • Flu

    Short for influenza, a virus that routinely causes disease in humans and animals, in seasonal epidemics.

  • Furlough

    Supports firms hit by coronavirus by temporarily helping pay the wages of some staff. It allows employees to remain on the payroll, even though they aren't working.

  • Herd immunity

    How the spread of a disease slows after a sufficiently large proportion of a population has been exposed to it.

  • Immune

    A person whose body can withstand or fend off a disease is said to be immune to it. Once a person has recovered from the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, for example, it is thought they cannot catch it again for a certain period of time.

  • Incubation period

    The period of time between catching a disease and starting to display symptoms.

  • Intensive care

    Hospital wards which treat patients who are very ill. They are run by specially-trained healthcare staff and contain specialist equipment.

  • Lockdown

    Restrictions on movement or daily life, where public buildings are closed and people told to stay at home. Lockdowns have been imposed in several countries as part of drastic efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Mitigation phase

    The third part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which will involve attempts to lessen the impact of a high number of cases on public services. This could mean the NHS halting all non-critical care and police responding to major crimes and emergencies only.

  • NHS 111

    The NHS's 24-hour phone and online service, which offers medical advice to anyone who needs it. People in England and Wales are advised to ring the service if they are worried about their symptoms. In Scotland, they should check NHS inform, then ring their GP in office hours or 111 out of hours. In Northern Ireland, they should call their GP.

  • Outbreak

    Multiple cases of a disease occurring rapidly, in a cluster or different locations.

  • Pandemic

    An epidemic of serious disease spreading rapidly in many countries simultaneously.

  • Phase 2

    This is when the UK will start to lift some of its lockdown rules while still trying to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

  • PPE

    PPE, or personal protective equipment, is clothing and kit such as masks, aprons, gloves and goggles used by medical staff, care workers and others to protect themselves against infection from coronavirus patients and other people who might be carrying the disease.

  • Quarantine

    The isolation of people exposed to a contagious disease to prevent its spread.

  • R0

    R0, pronounced "R-naught", is the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person. If the R0 of coronavirus in a particular population is 2, then on average each case will create two more new cases. The value therefore gives an indication of how much the infection could spread.

  • Recession

    This happens when there is a significant drop in income, jobs and sales in a country for two consecutive three-month periods.

  • Sars

    Severe acute respiratory syndrome, a type of coronavirus that emerged in Asia in 2003.

  • Self-isolation

    Staying inside and avoiding all contact with other people, with the aim of preventing the spread of a disease.

  • Social distancing

    Keeping away from other people, with the aim of slowing down transmission of a disease. The government advises not seeing friends or relatives other than those you live with, working from home where possible and avoiding public transport.

  • State of emergency

    Measures taken by a government to restrict daily life while it deals with a crisis. This can involve closing schools and workplaces, restricting the movement of people and even deploying the armed forces to support the regular emergency services.

  • Statutory instrument

    These can be used by government ministers to implement new laws or regulations, or change existing laws. They are an easier alternative to passing a full Act of Parliament.

  • Symptoms

    Any sign of disease, triggered by the body's immune system as it attempts to fight off the infection. The main symptoms of the coronavirus are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

  • Vaccine

    A treatment that causes the body to produce antibodies, which fight off a disease, and gives immunity against further infection.

  • Ventilator

    A machine that takes over breathing for the body when disease has caused the lungs to fail.

  • Virus

    A tiny agent that copies itself inside the living cells of any organism. Viruses can cause these cells to die and interrupt the body's normal chemical processes, causing disease.

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