When do schools go back? Date schools reopen to pupils in England - and Covid testing plan explained

Boris Johnson set out a date for all pupils to return to school
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Boris Johnson has announced the date that pupils will head back to classrooms as part of his roadmap out of lockdown.

Addressing MPs on Monday 22 February, the Prime Minister set out the date that schools will be able to reopen to all pupils in England following the third national lockdown.

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At the start of January, all primary and secondary schools closed to pupils except from vulnerable children and children of key workers.

Schools are set to return in March (Shutterstock)Schools are set to return in March (Shutterstock)
Schools are set to return in March (Shutterstock)

Here’s when schools reopen in England.

When will schools reopen?

The Prime Minister told MPs how restrictions in England, in place since 5 January, will be gradually relaxed.

A four-step roadmap has been drawn up, outlining the consecutive stages to relative normality.

Step one of the roadmap includes the date for the reopening of schools.

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From 8 March, all schools in England will go back, with outdoor after school sports and activities permitted too.

The Prime Minister said individual schools would be able to decide whether to opt for a phased return for different year groups during that week.

However, headteacher unions have express reservations about reopening all schools at the same time.

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, warned that all students heading back to classrooms at once "runs the risk of increasing the rate of infection and prolonging the damaging cycle of stop-start schooling".

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The government has insisted that opening schools again remains the “top priority” when it comes to easing restrictions.

What is the Covid testing plan for schools?

To assist with the reopening, there will be mass coronavirus testing in secondary schools.

Parents and carers will be expected to carry out testing for secondary pupils at home, after they receive three Covid tests in school.

Home testing using a lateral flow test will be twice weekly for secondary pupils, although they will be voluntary.

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Lateral flow tests are usually swab tests which work by taking a sample from the back of the throat or nose.

Schools will also provide testing facilities for children whose parents cannot carry out testing.

So far, there is no testing planned for primary school children.

Individual schools are also able to decide on testing arrangements for pupils.

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Furthermore, face masks will be required in some secondary school classrooms at least for the rest of the spring term.

The Department for Education said there would be a requirement to "wear face coverings indoors, including classrooms" where social distancing cannot be adhered to.

Mr Johnson said during his announcement: "All the evidence shows that schools are safe and the risk posed to children by Covid is vanishingly small.

"But to offer even greater reassurance we're introducing twice weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils and asking them to wear face coverings for the rest of this term."

Why were schools closed?

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Primary and secondary schools across England were forced to close after Boris Johnson’s third lockdown announcement on the evening on Monday 4 January - despite some pupils returning to school after Christmas that day.

During his national announcement, the Prime Minister said schools had to shut to prevent the spread of the disease and the new coronavirus strain which had emerged in the UK.

He said: “Because we now have to do everything we possibly can to stop the spread of the disease, primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across England must move to remote provision from tomorrow, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

“Everyone will still be able to access early years settings such as nurseries.”

Mr Johnson stressed that schools were not closing because they were unsafe for children, but because they act as “vectors for transmission” between households.