The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has this afternoon set out the Government's position for the phased reopening of schools following the Christmas holidays.
In order to help contain the community transmission of COVID-19, the Government has taken the decision to invoke the Contingency Framework for Education in areas of the country like Sutton with extremely high rates of incidence or transmission of the virus. This means that some restrictions to primary education settings are required, with primary schools moving to remote education for the first two weeks of term, except for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.
For our area, the guidance for all schools, including independent schools, from next week (4 Jan) is as follows:
Early years settings (including nurseries and childminders) should continue to allow all children/pupils to attend as normal. School-based nurseries in primary schools have discretion to follow arrangements for the primary school. Attendance at early years and childcare settings is not compulsory.
Primary schools should only allow children of critical workers and those defined as vulnerable to attend. High quality remote education should be provided for all other pupils.
Secondary schools remain closed, with the exception of children of critical workers and children deemed to be vulnerable. Students in Years 11 and 13 will receive remote education to reduce disruption to exams later in the year; no other year groups will be required to receive remote education. From the 11 January, all remaining secondary school year groups will commence remote education, before all secondary students return to school/college for face-to-face education from the 18 January.
Special schools should continue to allow pupils to attend full-time. Special post-16 settings should allow students to continue to attend as per their usual timetable.
Alternative Provision (AP)
Where the contingency framework is implemented, alternative provision (including pupil referral units, AP academies, AP free schools) should continue to allow all children or pupils to attend full-time.
As ever, no-one should attend education or childcare if they have symptoms of coronavirus or are self-isolating due to symptoms in their household, and the above measures will be reviewed over the next few weeks before a full return of all students.
These changes have been announced to allow sufficient time for the rollout of mass rapid testing and to break any existing chains of transmission, ensuring that education environments are as safe as possible. The approach is designed to keep the maximum possible number of students in face-to-face education through the Spring term and beyond, and reflects a carefully balanced decision that weighs up the evidence available.
If your child attends a school outside of Sutton, and you are unsure whether that area falls within the Contingency Framework, please refer to Annex A for a list of local authorities where this guidance applies. You can also find more detailed information on all of the above via the Government's website.
If you have any specific questions or concerns about your own children's return to school, I would encourage you to contact the school directly for more information. However, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance.