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School Reopening: The Plan So Far

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

The government has stated that it plans for all students, of all year groups, to return to school for the new school year starting autumn 2020. Speaking at the first press conference since the daily government briefings ceased, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that it would be mandatory for all children to return to school for the new academic year to ensure pupils do not fall further behind the curriculum. This includes those pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. He emphasised that this return to school will be "critical to our national recovery". Head-teachers will be encouraged to follow up any absences, and action will be taken against parents who fail to comply.

With government support, primary schools returned to school from 1 June with year groups being educated in small bubbles to ensure proper social distancing measures were in place. Secondary schools followed suit from 15 June, following strict social distancing measures to reduce contact. The government is confident this has allowed them to monitor the situation in schools effectively to ensure that all pupils will be able to return in the autumn term with the correct measures in place to create safer environments within schools.

Williamson insisted that there would be no watering down of school standards, and schools are to maintain a “broad and balanced” curriculum. Classes or entire year groups are to be kept apart in “protective bubbles” as opposed to individual social distancing, though schools are encouraged to "continue minimising contact between children", especially older students. In the case of an outbreak, classified as two or more confirmed cases within fourteen days, teachers and other members of staff will liaise with local health services. While some pupils may be asked to self-isolate in some instances, Williamson insists that entire school closures “will not generally be necessary”.

There will likely be staggered start and finish times to the school day, to limit the number of students travelling at the same time. The government says this will not impact on teaching time. School buses will run, though measures may be taken to ensure students stay within their designated bubbles. Other possible ways of getting to and from school, such as "walking buses", are being explored to limit the use of public transport. Children over the age of 11 are to wear facemasks.

For many children, breakfasts and after school clubs serve an incredibly important role in their lives. The government recognises this and says that, if possible, these should resume in September. However, it will be "logistically challenging", and for some schools, this may take a bit longer to negotiate. During these clubs, students should ideally stay within their year groups, though if this is not possible, then schools should use "small, consistent groups" to limit student contact.

The government is confident that they now have enough information about the coronavirus to ensure a smooth and safe return to school for all pupils in the autumn. The situation is being carefully and regularly monitored, and all information will be updated when and as required.

You can find more information on the official government website:

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