Schools are currently closed for most pupils, except those of key workers and vulnerable children. You can find a full list of key workers eligible to send their children to school here. 

The government has published plans for pupils in Reception, Year 1, and Year 6 to potentially be able to return to the classroom in smaller class sizes from the start of June. This will ensure the youngest children and those preparing for the transition to secondary school have the maximum amount of time with their teachers. 

Secondary schools, sixth forms, and colleges will also work towards the possibility of providing some face-to-face contact with young people in Year 10 and Year 12 to help them prepare for exams next year.

However, as the PM has said, progress will be monitored every day. If the virus stays on the downward slope, and the R remains below 1, then – and only then – will it become safe to go further, move to the second step and reopen schools.

Early years settings may also be able to open for all children. The aim is for other primary years to return later in June, but this will be kept under review, and there are currently no plans to reopen secondary schools for other year groups (other than Years 10 and Year 12) before the summer holidays.

Priority groups, including vulnerable children and children of critical workers who have been eligible to attend throughout school closures, will continue to be able to attend schools, colleges and early years settings as they are currently.

The transmission rate has decreased, and the aim is that by 1 June at the earliest it will be safe for a greater number of children and young people to return to education and childcare. As a result, the Government is asking schools and childcare providers to plan on this basis, ahead of confirmation of the scientific advice.

This will only happen when the five key tests set by Government justify the changes at the time, including the rate of infection decreasing and the enabling programmes set out in the Roadmap operating effectively.

The government has published guidance to the sector, which sets out a range of protective measures to ensure education settings remain safe places, including: 

  • reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small groups without mixing with others
  • staggered break and lunch times, as well as drop offs and pick ups
  • increasing the frequency of cleaning, reducing the used of shared items and utilising outdoor space
  Read the full guidance

Preparation for the potential reopening of schools will be part of the second phase of modifications to social distancing measures which the Prime Minister set out on 10th May– following more people returning to work in step one, and coming alongside the possible reopening of some non-essential retail in phase two.

The Government will continue to work closely with the sector in the build-up to and following pupils’ return.

Whilst there will be no penalty for families who do not send their children to school, families will be strongly encouraged to take up these places – unless the child or a family member is shielding or the child is particularly vulnerable due to an underlying condition.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies advising the Government has a high degree of confidence that the severity of the disease in children is lower than in adults and a moderately high degree of confidence that children aged up to 11 are less susceptible to it.

All staff are already eligible for testing, and staff in shielding and high-risk groups should remain at home. From 1 June, all children and young people eligible to return to their settings will have access to testing, if they display symptoms, as will any symptomatic member(s) of their household.

This will enable children and staff to get back to school if they test negative, and if they test positive a test and trace approach can be taken. Where a setting has a positive case, Public Health England will advise on the appropriate course of action, and the relevant group of people with whom the individual has mixed closely, should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days.

  Free schools meals

Low-income families whose children are eligible for free school meals will be offered vouchers, food or meals to make sure they continue receiving this support, even if they are no longer attending school due to the coronavirus outbreak. Schools can either provide meals or vouchers for supermarkets or local shops, which can be sent directly to families who are either self-isolating at home or whose schools are closed on government advice. It is up to headteachers to decide which option is best for the school. 

The Government has also confirmed that the total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate it pays to schools for free school meals, recognising that families will not be buying food in bulk and may therefore incur higher costs.

Click here to find out whether your child is eligible for free school meals and, therefore, the voucher replacement scheme. Any child already receiving free school meals may still qualify. 

  School inspections

To lift the pressure on schools themselves and to allow them to focus on supporting those children who need it most, Ofsted will cease all inspections of schools and colleges with immediate effect.

  School summer exams

Primary school assessments or secondary school exams will not go ahead this summer, and there will be no performance tables. These exams have been cancelled, and they will not go ahead this summer under any circumstance. 

The exam regulator, Ofqual, and exam boards will work with teachers to provide grades to students. This means ensuring GCSE, A and AS level students are awarded a grade which fairly reflects the work that they have put in. There will also be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who wish to. Ofqual has consulted on the process used to calculate grades, this can be found here. The outcome of the consultation will be provided in due course. 

To produce a calculated grade, teachers will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment – clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly will be provided to schools and colleges. The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in. 

University representatives have confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education.

The Department for Education aim to provide these calculated grades before the end of July. In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years. If students do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity, once schools are open again. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.

The Government will not publish any school or college level educational performance data based on tests, assessments or exams for 2020.