Welcome back and Happy New Year!

What a tumultuous first week back…

On Monday, the Government declared primary schools were safe and should be open whilst secondary schools had a staggered return with examination year students due to return first. The next day the Prime Minister announced another national lockdown and schools would be closed to all except vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers until at least February half term. All other pupils would learn remotely. Concern has been raised that the rationale for continuing to keep nursery schools open and the impact across early years settings has not been made clear.

Remote learning
The Education Secretary confirmed schools are expected to offer online lessons and should be providing between 3-5 teaching hours a day, depending on a child’s age. If parents feel their child’s school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and failing that, report the matter to Ofsted.

Devices and access to online content and free data
The DfE’s rollout of devices and access to online content and free data continues as well as the BBC confirming they will be offering 14 weeks of educational programmes across age groups, as well as the Oak National Academy continuing to provide video lessons for all ages across all subjects.

Examinations cancelled
The 2021 summer A level and GCSE exams have been cancelled and we wait to see what will be offered in their place, although thankfully last year’s algorithms will not be used. It is expected a short consultation will open next week on the options for alternatives to the exams to ensure every young person gets a fair grade for their work. We have also had confirmation that this year’s SATs have been cancelled.

Free school meals provision
The Education Secretary has confirmed that Free School Meals arrangements will continue, families will be offered food parcels or provided with an alternative local solution and if that isn’t possible the national vouchers scheme will re-open, funded by the Government.

Virus testing programme
Finally, the rapid testing programme for secondary schools will continue for those on site, with daily testing of close contacts available to students and staff and weekly testing available for staff. Primary staff will be included later this month as planned, and more detail will be set out in due course about reaching all secondary students as they return to face-to-face education.