Covid: When will children return to school and what are the rules?

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Children are returning to school across the UK, after months of enforced home-schooling.

When will the last children be back in class and what Covid measures will be in place?

When will children return to school?

  • In Wales, all primary school pupils are back, as are some secondary pupils in years 11 and 13. First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed all children and students will be back in face-to-face education by Monday 12 April
  • In Northern Ireland, all primary school children will be back on Monday 22 March. A plan for post-primary pupils to return by 12 April will be reviewed at the end of March
  • In Scotland, all primary pupils are back, and a phased return of secondary students is under way. All pupils are expected to return to full-time classroom learning from 19 April
  • In England, school restarted for all age groups on 8 March and attendance is compulsory. Students who are shielding have been asked to remain at home for a bit longer

How will testing work in schools?

Students in England will be tested for Covid-19 three times in the first two weeks of school. After that they will be given two tests each week to use at home.

These will be lateral flow tests, which involve taking a swab of the nose and throat. The sample is put in a tube of liquid and gives a result within 30 minutes.

Testing is voluntary and children will only be tested if a parent or carer gives consent. Pupils will not be stopped from returning to school if they do not take part.

Staff or pupils who test positive should self-isolate. If the test is done at home, they should also book a second test at a local test centre to confirm the result.

You should not send your child to school or college if they:

  • Have Covid-19 symptoms, or live with someone who has symptoms
  • Have tested positive themselves, or live with someone who has tested positive
  • Are a close contact of someone who has Covid-19
  • Are required to self-isolate for travel-related reasons

All primary and secondary school staff are in England also being offered twice-weekly rapid tests. Parents and carers can also get a twice-weekly test.

In Scotland, all teaching staff as well as senior phase pupils (S4 and above) are being offered home tests twice a week.

All school staff in Wales will also be offered twice-weekly rapid tests.

Students and teachers at special schools in Northern Ireland are being offered weekly tests.

Will children have to wear masks?

Students and staff in English secondary schools, colleges, and universities have to wear face coverings indoors - including in classrooms - unless 2m (6ft) social distancing can be maintained. This will be reviewed at Easter.

The rules do not apply to younger children in nurseries and primary schools, but adults should wear face coverings where possible.

Some students and adults may be exempt - such as those who cannot use a face covering because of a disability or illness, and those who rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate.

In Scotland, all secondary pupils are asked to wear masks, including in class.

In Wales, face coverings must be worn by secondary school students and staff everywhere outside the classroom.

Secondary school students in Northern Ireland are required to wear face coverings both inside and outside the classroom.

What is happening about exams?

In England, A-levels, AS levels and GCSE exams have been cancelled and teachers' estimated grades will be used instead.

Results will be published earlier in August to allow time to appeal. Primary school SATs will not go ahead this year, nor will phonics or timetable testing.

Welsh students will have their grades determined by teachers, based on evidence such as mock exams and coursework.

In Northern Ireland, schools will have to submit the grades they think pupils should be awarded at the end of May.

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