Will schools close again? The government’s plans for schools and universities explained as England prepares for second lockdown

More than 300,000 have signed a petition asking for schools to be closed again amid rise in Covid-19 cases

Monday, 2nd November 2020, 2:46 pm

People across England have been told to stay at home from Thursday 5 November, with all non-essential shops, leisure facilities and entertainment venues set to close during a new four-week lockdown.

Speaking on Saturday (31 October), the prime minister announced a second national lockdown, meaning people must stay at home unless for specific reasons.

But how do the new measures affect schools and education?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

(Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
(Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Read More

Read More
These are England’s second national lockdown rules at a glance

Here is everything you need to know.

Will schools close as part of the second lockdown?

Unlike during the first lockdown, schools, colleges and universities will remain open, with the Government saying it wants to “prioritise the wellbeing and long-term futures of our young people."

(Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has defended the Government’s approach.

He said: “[The] PM is absolutely right, we must protect the NHS and very important we keep schools and colleges open, as the Chief Medical Officer has said schools are the safest and best places to be, not just for children’s education, but for their wellbeing.”

The government has advised that universities and adult education settings should consider moving to increased levels of online learning where possible.

Hospitality venues such as pubs, restaurants and bars, however, will be forced to close.

Should schools close?

Despite assurances from the government, the news that schools, universities and other places of learning are due to remain open has angered some.

Many are calling for a review of the lockdown measures, arguing that they should in fact close once more.

The National Education Union (NEU) has called for schools and colleges to close, insisting they are “an engine for virus transmission” and it would be “self-defeating” to impose a national lockdown while keeping them open.

More than 300,000 people have signed a petition asking the Government to close schools and colleges again due to the rise in Covid-19 cases to "protect teachers and pupils and their families”, meaning the petition will be considered for a debate in Parliament.

But others say it would be better for classrooms to remain full during the lockdown, including Nina Gunson, the headteacher of Sheffield High School for Girls.

She tweeted: “So glad the schools are staying open though. These children do not need further isolation.

"It isn’t just about the quality of learning," Gunson said, they need to socialise and see other children and adults for their emotional development.

"Please don’t bow down to pressure and close the schools Gavin Williamson. We’ve got this!”

Will exams in England happen next year?

The Government says the Prime Minister and Education Secretary have been “clear that exams will go ahead next summer, as they are the fairest and most accurate way to measure a pupil’s attainment.”

"We therefore need to keep schools and colleges open so that children are able to keep progressing towards exams and the next stage of education or employment.

"Students now have more time to prepare for their exams next year, as most AS, A levels and GCSEs will be held 3 weeks later to help address the disruption caused by the pandemic.”

‘We have decided to become a school’

Some are taking a more humorous approach to the situation, and one pub in Leeds has said it has “found a way around" the new lockdown measures.

The Cardigan Arms pub in Kirkstall jokingly announced on Twitter that they have decided to become a school in order to stay open.

The hilarious tweets from the pub began with: “We have decided to become a school.”

They jokingly then continued their idea in tweets throughout the weekend, such as encouraging followers to come and enjoy burgers, sandwiches, fries and small plates “in a lovely Victorian school.”

The ‘school’ pub even created a Venn diagram to share on Twitter which included ‘£2.50 cask pints’ as part of their curriculum management process.