Schools, colleges and nurseries across England remain on track to open to more children from 1 June, the Prime Minister confirmed on Sunday 24 May.
Primary schools will be able to welcome back children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, while nurseries and other early years providers will begin welcoming back children of all ages.
Secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges will also provide face-to-face contact for Year 10, Year 12 and equivalent 16-19 further education students to help them prepare for exams next year. It is expected this will begin from 15 June, with around a quarter of these secondary students attending at any one point. This includes providing remote education for those not in school, as well as continuing to provide face-to-face education for the children of priority groups, including vulnerable children and children of critical workers.
The Prime Minister praised teachers, childcare workers and support staff for the brilliant work they have been doing throughout the pandemic. He also acknowledged that some schools may not be able to reopen immediately and committed the government to continuing to work with the sector to ensure any schools experiencing difficulties are able to open as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister said “In line with our roadmap setting out how the UK will adjust its response to the virus, our approach to schools remains a cautious, phased one. It is also broadly in line with other European countries”.
“We continue to consider all the evidence, as we said we would, and will continue to work with schools, teachers and unions over the coming week before making a final decision. It also remains the case that schools will only reopen to more children if the government’s five tests are met by Thursday 28 May.”
In the coming days, the Prime Minister will set out the government’s progress in meeting these five tests, which are:
- Protect the NHS’s ability to cope. We must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.
- See a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from COVID-19 so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.
- Reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.
- Be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.
- Be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelms the NHS.
Sunday’s announcement comes after a constructive period of consultation with schools, teachers and unions, led by the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. Guidance has been published by the Department for Education on how schools can open in a way which is safe for children, teachers and parents.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson commented “This has been a difficult time for the entire country. Our priority is the education and welfare of all children and young people across the country. That is why we want to start a phased wider opening of nurseries, schools and colleges, informed by the best possible scientific and medical advice. While we recognise that full social distancing may not be possible, our guidance sets out a range of measures to protect children and staff.”