Many constituents have contacted me about schools reopening on June 1st and the safety of children. Here are the answers to some questions that people have been asking me. As ever, if you have any specific questions or concerns please email me directly on email@example.com
1. Why does the Government think it is safe for children to return to school?
Since 23 March, in line with the scientific advice, nurseries, schools and colleges have remained open to a priority group of children and young people, children of critical workers and vulnerable children, but closed to all other pupils. The Government have been clear that this would be reviewed line with scientific advice. As we are now past the peak of the virus the Prime Minister has set out a recovery strategy which includes the phased return of children and young people to nurseries, schools and colleges in a way that is measured, reduces risks and is guided by science.
As a result of the huge efforts everyone has made to adhere to strict social distancing measures, the transmission rate (R0) of coronavirus has decreased. In addition, the latest scientific advice to government is that there is high scientific confidence that children of all ages have less severe symptoms than adults if they contract coronavirus and there is moderately high scientific confidence that younger children are less likely to become unwell if infected with coronavirus.
The Government, on the advice of its scientists, anticipates that it may, therefore, be possible for more children to be able to safely start attending schools, colleges and early years’ settings shortly. This will only happen if the science continues to show that this is safe and that the rate of transmission continues to decrease, however schools have been asked to plan for this to happen from the week commencing 1st June 2020.
If you would like to read the full guidance issued by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), it is available here:
2. Why only Reception, Y1 and Y6?
The scientific advice to Government has said that limiting the numbers of children going back to school initially and then gradually increasing numbers reduces the risk of increasing the rate of transmission. Initially, therefore, the Government are planning for Reception, Y1 and Y6 children to return to school followed at a later date by pupils in other years.
Reception and Y1 pupils are at a formational stage in their education and least able to access online learning successfully. Attending early education lays the foundation for lifelong learning and supports children’s social and emotional development. The impact to these pupils of lost education is, therefore, potentially greater than for other pupils. In addition, older children are more likely to have higher numbers of contacts outside of school so pose a greater transmission risk, and they are typically better able to learn at home. Year 6 pupils are in a very important transitional phase of their education and will benefit considerably from time with their friends and teachers to ensure they are ready for their move to secondary school in September.
In addition, from 1 June, secondary schools and colleges will offer some face to face support with year 10 and year 12 pupils (and equivalent) to supplement their remote education.
3. How can young children be expected to be socially distant?
The Government is aware that, unlike older children and adults, early years and primary age children cannot be expected to remain 2 metres apart from each other and staff. In deciding to bring more children back to early years and schools, this has been taken into account. Scientific advice is that schools can make changes to how they are organised and put measures in place to reduce the risk of transmission. This includes ensuring children, young people and staff where possible only mix in a small, consistent group and that small group stays away from other people and groups. For primary schools, guidance is that classes should normally be split in half, with no more than 15 pupils per small group and one teacher (and, if needed, a teaching assistant).
You can read the Government’s full guidance for schools here which details a wide range of ways that schools can reduce the risk of transmission as more children and young people return, alongside the introduction of smaller class groups.
4. How will the Government’s guidance be implemented at my child’s school?
Each school’s circumstances are different and so each school’s plan to implement the guidance will be specific to their setting. The guidance to schools includes a range of measures which can be used to create safer environments in which the risk of spreading the virus is substantially reduced. Whilst such changes are likely to look different in each setting, as they will depend upon individual circumstances, they are all designed to minimise risks to children, staff and their families.
Schools and other settings will communicate their plans to parents once they have had a chance to work through them in detail. If you have questions about how your child’s school is planning to implement the guidance, and what measures they will be taking, then you should contact the school themselves for further details.
There is further information for parents about the measures schools might take here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-setti….
5. What about children who are shielding?
NHS England has advised people with certain health conditions which make them extremely clinically vulnerable to coronavirus to shield until at least the end of June. Children and young people who are considered extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should continue to shield and will not be expected to attend school. You can see details of individuals who advised to shield here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-pr…
6. What about children who are not shielding but who are clinically vulnerable?
Clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) people are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus, but who are not advised to shield. Parents of children in this category should follow medical advice.
7. What about children who live with others who are either shielding or vulnerable?
Children and young people who live in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should only attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and the child or young person is able to understand and follow those instructions. Children and young people who live with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not extremely clinically vulnerable) as defined in the social distancing guidance and including those who are pregnant, can attend.
8. Do I have to send my child to school if they are in Reception, Y1 or Y6?
Children in these year groups are encouraged to attend school unless they are self isolating or shielding / clinically vulnerably, however, parents will not be fined for their child’s non-attendance at this time and so can chose not to send their child in. Parents should discuss their plans with their child’s school as soon as possible so that schools can plan as effectively as possible.
9. What sort of educational provision will schools be providing to those who return to school?
School will still have the flexibility to provide support and education to children and young people attending school in the way they see fit during this time, and are best placed to make these decisions taking into account the specific needs of their pupils. Schools and colleges should use their best endeavours to support pupils attending as well as those remaining at home, making use of the available remote education support. If you have specific questions about educational provision then you should contact you child’s school for further details.
10. When will other children be able to return to school?
The Government’s aim is to bring all primary year groups back to school before the summer holidays, for a month if feasible, though this will be kept under review. Additional year groups will only be brought back if the most up-to-date assessment of the risk posed by the virus indicates it is appropriate to have larger numbers of children within schools.
10. Will children be able to be tested for coronavirus?
Once settings open to more children and young people, staff and pupils in all settings will be eligible for testing if they become ill with coronavirus symptoms, as will members of their household. This will enable children and young people to get back to childcare or education, and their parents or carers to get back to work, if the test proves to be negative, and also for swift action to be taken if the test if positive. Where the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class or group within their childcare or education setting will be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. As part of the national test and trace programme, if other cases are detected within the cohort or in the wider setting, Public Health England’s local health protection teams will conduct a rapid investigation and will advise schools and other settings on the most appropriate action to take.