Covid-19: Re-opening Schools
With the emergence of the new strain of Coronavirus this has become a rapidly shifting situation, but some things remain constant: the Government will continue to act to preserve lives and the NHS and continue to protect education by putting children first. Above all the Department for Education’s (DfE) response is proportionate to the risk at hand and makes every use of the contingency framework that was put in place earlier this year.
The latest study from Public Health England is that Covid infections among children are triggered by changes in the community rate, and found that the wider impact of school closures on children’s development would be significant. The Secretary of State for Education is clear that the Government must continue to do everything possible to keep children in school.
Accordingly, the Government will be opening the majority of primary schools, as planned, on Monday 4th January.
The DfE knows how vitally important it is for younger children to be in school for their education, well-being and wider development. In a small number of areas, where the infection rates are highest, the DfE will implement their existing contingency framework so that only vulnerable children and children of critical workers will attend face to face.
All pupils in exam years are to return during the week beginning the 11th January, with all secondary schools and college students returning full time on the 18th January.
During the first week of term - on or after the 4th of January - secondary schools and colleges will prepare to test as many staff and students as possible, and will only be open to vulnerable children or the children of key workers.
In regard to exams being taken in 2021, a number of measures have been agreed to minimise the unprecedented disruption to children’s education this year. These measures, and further information, is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-support-the-summer-2021-exams/guidance-to-support-the-summer-2021-exams?priority-taxon=b350e61d-1db9-4cc2-bb44-fab02882ac25
The Government believes that our best line of attack in dealing with this virus is to keep schools open using the mass-testing tools that are now available so that we can ensure all children benefit from a first class education.
School Uniform costs
The Government is pleased to support the Private Member’s Bill to ‘make provision for guidance to schools about the cost aspects of school uniform policies’, which was recently introduced to Parliament on 5th February 2020. This demonstrates the Government’s commitment to ensuring that school uniform costs are reasonable.
It is for the governing body of a school (or in the case of academies, the academy trust) to decide whether there should be a school uniform, what it will be and how it should be sourced. To support them to do this the department issues non-statutory best practice guidance which can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-uniform.
Government guidance clearly states that uniform items should be easily available for parents to purchase and schools should keep compulsory branded items to a minimum. It also states that schools should avoid single-supplier contracts, but where schools do choose to enter into such contracts, they should be subject to a regular competitive tendering process. This makes clear that we expect schools to ensure uniform costs are reasonable.
In August, the Department of Education announced a school funding increase of over £14 billion for primary and secondary schools, in total, over the next three years. The £14 billion means the Department can ‘level up’ school funding by raising the minimum per pupil funding for secondary schools to £5,000 next year, and the minimum per pupil funding for primary schools to £3,750 in 2020-21 and £4,000 in 2021-22.
Average school funding is increasing by 5% in 2020 – a significant increase - and the Department is allocating the biggest increases for the lowest-funded schools. In addition, every school in England can see an increase in per pupil funding at least in line with inflation, with most schools attracting real terms increases.
I feel it is important that the government continue to push for further school funding so that all young people the best opportunities to succeed - regardless of where they grow up or go to school.