Posted on 25th March, 2020

Coronavirus: Key questions over UK schools closure – and who else is affected?

Schools across the UK closed on Friday 20th March until further notice as part of the government’s effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Nurseries, sixth forms, further education colleges, independent schools and boarding schools are also closed.

Some key questions about the action have been answered, but others haven’t.

Will schools stay shut completely?

Not quite. The children of key workers and vulnerable children will still be allowed to attend schools. Examples of key workers include NHS staff, police and those involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of food & essential pharmaceuticals, who will be needed to continue to go to work as the UK battles coronavirus.

Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans – a legal document that describes a child’s special educational needs and the support they require.

The government is also encouraging schools to look after key workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays. All other children should remain at home.

How long will schools stay shut for?

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has only said schools in England will close “until further notice”.

What’s happening to A-Level, GCSEs and SATs?

All exams and assessments in England and Wales for this academic year have been cancelled.

Ofsted will cease all inspections of schools and colleges and performance tables will not be published this year.

Will pupils still get their qualifications?

Mr Williamson promised to “make sure that every child gets the proper recognition that they deserve” in terms of qualifications – but, so far, it is unclear how this will be achieved.

The government is working with Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) on a “detailed set of measures that make sure that no child is unfairly penalised”, Mr Williamson added.

The National Education Union has suggested teacher assessment is a “good method of giving reliable information about young people’s progress and achievements”.

What about school meals?

For children eligible for free school meals, schools will be able to purchase meals or vouchers for supermarkets or local shops.

The total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate the government pays to schools for free school meals. This is in recognition that families will not be buying food in bulk and are therefore likely to incur higher costs.

The final amounts will be confirmed shortly, the government has said. Vouchers can be emailed or printed and posted to families.

What about private nurseries & professional childminders?

According to the National Day Nurseries Association & Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, the closure also applies to nurseries & professional childminders.

Will university students still have to pay tuition fees?

Mr Williamson said there are “no plans” to make a change to tuition fees at universities.

This is because many universities are expected to continue teaching online, he explained.
“We’ll be working very closely with Universities UK to ensure that their students have their grades in a timely manner and to ensure that they’re able to move on to the next stage of their lives,” the education secretary added.

Published – 23/03/2020


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