Schools across the UK are closing their doors due to the coronavirus outbreak. But what does this mean?
– So, what is actually happening?
In England, schools will shut on Friday.
In Scotland and Wales, all schools will close for an early Easter break by Friday.
Schools in Northern Ireland will shut from Monday.
– How long will they be closed for?
The answer to that is we just don’t know.
The Government has simply said that England’s schools will shut “until further notice”.
Education is a devolved issue, so closures will be determined by individual nations.
Schools around the UK were due break up for Easter in around two weeks’ time.
The government will continue funding all early years entitlements during any periods of nursery, preschool or childminder closures.— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) March 17, 2020
Read more: https://t.co/7gKCH5jfnS #coronavirus #COVID2019 pic.twitter.com/MlCE2ccjmH
– Does this mean all schools will be shut?
The Government has said that schools in England will remain open to the children of key workers.
It is thought that the Cabinet Office will release a full list of these workers later so that families know where they stand.
Those on the list are expected to include NHS workers, school staff and delivery drivers.
Northern Ireland has indicated that provision will be made for the children of healthcare workers.
If you have questions about coronavirus in an education setting, you can contact our helpline.— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) March 18, 2020
Our helpline will offer guidance for anyone with education related questions - from early years up to universities, plus parents. #Coronavirus pic.twitter.com/qv2QgFOEx4
– Why has the Government decided to close schools now?
The Government had been keeping schools under “constant review” and announced on Wednesday that now was the time to apply “further downward pressure” on the upward curve of the virus by closing them.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has said school is “not dangerous” for children during the coronavirus pandemic, but that the decision to close them will slow the rise of infections.
– How will children receive an education when they are not in school?
Like much related to the coronavirus outbreak, it is a fast-moving situation, and much of the detail on what will happen is unknown.
What we do know is that schools are likely to have been planning for every eventuality, and there may be moves to online learning where possible, or children given learning packs.
– What about exams?
In England and Wales, A-level and GCSE exams, due to be taken in May and June, have been cancelled.
More information about exams in Scotland is likely to be announced later.
– How will children receive their qualifications?
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said the Government will work with schools, colleges and England’s exams regulator, Ofqual, “to ensure children get the qualifications they need”.
He has indicated that guidance will be issued on Friday as to how pupils unable to sit their exams due to school closures will get their grades.
School leaders have said they expect that grades will be based on teacher assessment and evidence of internal assessment, such as mock exams. This could then be submitted to the exam boards to check.
Rest assured, this was the last decision I wanted to take. But it could be the one that helps the NHS to stay afloat. https://t.co/b0wofJUHQt— Gavin Williamson (@GavinWilliamson) March 18, 2020
Mr Williamson said the Government will do “everything we can” to make sure children get results in August, but it hard to predict how events will unfold.
– And what about university places?
This is another issue that is up in the air.
If sixth-formers are awarded A-level grades this summer, then these can be used as usual to admit students on to degree courses.
If it is not possible to award grades in sufficient time, then one possibility is to admit students based on things like predicted grades and personal statements.
– How about nurseries and childminders?
The Department for Education has also asked nurseries and childminders, as well as private schools and sixth-forms to close, and say they will provide financial support as required.
The Government has asked that where possible, these groups look after key workers’ children and vulnerable youngsters throughout the Easter holidays.
There are some concerns.
Neil Leitch, of the Early Years Alliance, said that they know the decision has not been taken lightly but that it will have a “monumental impact” on childcare providers, and that many face a “significant loss in revenue”.