<p>It is hoped the staggered return to secondary schools in England will allow headteachers to rollout mass testing in the new year</p>

Secondary schools to have staggered return in January


Secondary schools to have staggered return in January

Secondary schools to have staggered return in January

Secondary school students in England will have a staggered return in January.

While pupils in exam years will return as normal after the Christmas holidays, other students in secondary schools will start the term online under the new plans.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said secondary schools and colleges will only offer on-site teaching from 4 January for vulnerable children and young people, key worker’s children and students taking exams this academic year. 

“They will provide remote education to all other pupils, before a full return to school and college from 11 January,” the education secretary said.

Primary schools will go back as normal in January, he said.

It is hoped the staggered return to secondary schools in England will allow headteachers to rollout mass testing in the new year.

The plans for a staggered return have been revealed in the same week several London councils have faced resistance from the government over guidance telling schools to move online for the last few days of term before Christmas.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said on Thursday: “The start of the term won’t be delayed but what we are doing is asking secondary schools and colleges to operate a staggered return supported by full-time remote education during the first week of term, with in-person teaching in full starting on 11 January.”

Mr Williamson made a written ministerial statement about the plans later on Thursday – the final day of term for many schools in England.

In response to the January plans, Danny Thorpe, the leader of Greenwich council, said: “This is another example of the government centralising all decisions and acting too slowly, instead of letting local leaders do what’s right for their own residents.”

Geoff Barton from the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: “It beggars belief that this announcement is being made now, right at the end of term, and after the government has spent the last few weeks refusing to contemplate the idea of remote learning and threatening schools with legal action if they dared to suggest such a move.” 

Meanwhile, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “By dropping this on schools minutes before the end of term, leaders are left with no time to implement [the] government’s instructions.”

Mary Bousted from the National Education Union (NEU) said the announcement on the last day of term demonstrated “ministerial panic rather than rational and responsible action” in response to the rise in Covid-19 rates among pupils.

“The presence of Year 11 and 13 pupils on the school site at the same time as the testing arrangements and procedures are being put in place will be extremely problematic,” she added. 

“It is highly likely that these pupils will return from their Christmas holiday with higher levels of Covid-19 infection. Those who test positive will be required to isolate, which involves a huge amount of school staff taking the time to contact parents and to trace close contacts.”

Staff in secondary schools and colleges across England will have access to weekly coronavirus testing from next month under the plans. Meanwhile, both students and staff identified as a close contact of someone with coronavirus will be able to get a daily test over seven days, which would avoid them having to self-isolate. 

Announcing the testing scheme, Mr Williamson said: “Testing on this scale brings real benefits to education [and] it means more children, teachers and staff can stay in their classes in schools and colleges without the need to self-isolate.”

Additional reporting by Press Association


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