Now children might not return to school until after EASTER: Gavin Williamson will ‘rule out pupils going back into classrooms after February half-term’ within days
- All children had been set to return to schools after the February half-term
- Sources suggest reopening could be pushed back until mid-April or even May
- Students in GCSE and A-Level likely to be prioritised due to exams preparation
- Comes as another blow to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson
Parents could be home schooling their children for months to come as the return to the classroom is set to be pushed back again.
It is believed that Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, will within days rule out the full reopening of schools after the February half-term break.
While no exact date has been reported, headteachers and education leaders expect the push-back could be as late as April or even May.
This means that under-pressure parents will have to manage their own work alongside almost half a year of home schooling, with schools having broken up for the Christmas break in mid-December.
A government source told the Sunday Times: ‘We are in this for the long haul. We are going to start giving parents more information so they can start managing their expectations. Although we have not arrived at an exact date when we think schools will go back, it will not be after half-term.’
Parents could be home schooling their children for months to come as the return to the classroom is set to be pushed back again (stock photo)
On January 4, the government announced that schools would close the next day after a short reopening because of high infection rates across the country.
Mr Williamson then said that parents and teachers would be given two weeks notice for the full reopening of schools.
‘What we will be wanting to do is to give schools as much notice as possible so teachers can get ready, children can prepare, and parents know in order to manage their lives,’ he said.
But he added that one key criteria in deciding whether to reopen schools to all pupils will be whether the pressure on the NHS has started to lift.
This week Boris Johnson warned that pressure on the health service was still immense, and with an early lifting of lockdown measures likely to cause a ‘huge wave of infections’ according to the government’s pandemic modelling group, it is unlikely to see any changes until late spring.
It is believed that Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, will within days rule out the full reopening of schools after the February half-term break
While schools are expected to be one of the first parts of society set to be reopened fully, this has dampened expectations for the current timeline.
The prospect of a delay will trouble exhausted working parents trying to tackle homeschooling young children while simultaneously doing their job.
A No 10 source added: ‘May is a very long way away and if it was left to the NHS and the scientists they are in favour of pushing back the return date for schools for as long as possible. One thing is for sure — we will not risk coming out of this lockdown if there is any risk that we will be plunged into another.’
When they do reopen properly, schools are not expected to allow all students to return at once.
Currently serving only vulnerable children and those of critical workers, it is understood other pupils will return to classrooms on a staggered basis starting with year groups doing their GCSE and A-Level exams.
To reduce capacity, schools could also put in place a rota system where some year groups work from home on set weeks.
Kevin Courtney, co-general secretary of the National Education Union, who has been meeting Department for Education officials, said any reopening before Easter seemed ‘optimistic’, adding: ‘It could be as late as May.’
Home schooling has proven to be chaotic, with hundreds of thousands of worse-off children left without computers or access to the internet needed to take part in online lessons or submit their homework.
The Department for Education has ordered 1.3million laptops for an estimated 1.78million who do not currently have access to one, but only 800,000 have so far been delivered.