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Are primary and secondary schools reopening in January?

Given the introduction of tier four and persistent speculation about stricter lockdown measures coming in early 2021, it’s natural for parents to wonder about schools reopening in January.

And as there are now more Covid-19 patients in English hospitals than there were during the pandemic’s peak in April 2020 – these questions are becoming more and more urgent.

Here’s the latest news on primary and secondary schools reopening across the UK…

Are schools going to reopen in January in England?

Yes. Currently, year 11 and 13 pupils, primary school students and children of key workers in England will return to school on January 4.

The remaining secondary school pupils will then return a week later. Updates and latest guidance regarding schools can be found on gov.uk.

At time of writing, the UK Government has not said that schools will remain closed in January in England.

On December 28, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told Sky News: ‘We always keep things under review.

‘But teachers and headteachers have been working incredibly hard over the Christmas period since schools broke up in order to prepare for a new testing regime – community testing – in order to make sure that children and all of us are safer.

‘We do keep things under review but that is the plan.’

Why are there rumours schools may not go back after Christmas?

Many are expecting the Government to announce that English schools will close in January – meaning primary and secondary pupils wouldn’t return to school following the Christmas break.

Recent reports from sources close to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that the Department of Education held meetings on the pressing subject on December 28.

The same source told The Telegraph that Williamson was ‘facing an enormous battle’ to keep schools open – after pressure from so-called ‘lockdowners’ (lockdown enthusiasts).

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) has said that returning to school should be delayed until February for a large majority of students, to allow mass testing to be rolled out in classrooms.

Similarly, the National Education Union has also called for online classes for a fortnight in January, allowing time for rising Covid-19 cases to fall.

Previously, it was reported that there would be no decision made on the subject until after Christmas and the announcement of a Brexit deal – after a meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Department of Education was delayed.

Will schools reopen in Scotland in January?

As with most coronavirus restrictions, things are slightly different in other parts of the UK.

In Scotland, schools will start on the normal first day of January term – but only for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

The majority of Scottish primary and secondary students will have an extended Christmas break. Holiday ends on January 11, and teaching will be conducted online until January 15.

This guidance will be reviewed and updated on the gov.scot website.

Will schools reopen in Wales and Northern Ireland?

In Wales, most pupils will return to schooling on the first day of term – this varies depending on where you live.

However, classes will be online until January 11. It is expected that a full return to school will be completed by January 18.

Like all coronavirus rules, this will be up for review and could change.

An FAQ on schools under Wales’ level four restrictions can be found at gov.wales.

And despite the announcement of a six-week lockdown in Northern Ireland, which began on Boxing Day, schools are expected to reopen in the first week of January.

Updates on schools in Northern Ireland can be found on nidirect.gov.uk.

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