Covid: What is happening with schools and when will they reopen after the Christmas holidays

Under the current Government rules, state schools in Sheffield are set to start reopening for the first term of 2021 on January 4.
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And with Covid-19 cases rising in many parts of the city, and the potential for Tier 4 restrictions in the new year, schools have been told they are expected to start to implement mass testing.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced on Thursday, December 17 that secondary school and college pupils’ return to class in England will be staggered in the first week of January to help schools roll out the mass Covid-19 testing.

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Downing Street confirmed that this approach is under review, but still expected to go ahead at the moment (December 29).

Schools are preparing for the return of children with staggered starting times for different year groups.Schools are preparing for the return of children with staggered starting times for different year groups.
Schools are preparing for the return of children with staggered starting times for different year groups.

Those sitting exams in 2021 will go in first, and the year groups who go back into school later will begin the term online. Primary schools will reopen as normal.

To find out what time your child’s year group is due back to start term you will need to check with the individual school.

Will mass testing be implemented in time?

The Government’s last-minute announcement at the end of term drew criticism from education unions which warned that testing will not be ready at the start of the new term as many headteachers will struggle to set up the scheme.

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Coun Abtisam Mohamed, cabinet member for education and skills at Sheffield Council, warned that schools should continue to do test and trace as they did in previous terms to ensure that pupils were safe while the mass testing was implemented.

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Having mass testing in place by January 4 is an impossible target for most.

“College and school leaders are being set up to fail and that’s not right.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “We’re still planning for a staggered opening of schools and we are working to ensure testing is in place.

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“As we have said throughout the pandemic, we obviously keep all measures under constant review.”

However, Professor Neil Ferguson, a Government advisor, warned that schools may need to shut in future.

He said: “Clearly nobody wants to keep schools shut.

“But if that’s the only alternative to having exponentially growing numbers of hospitalisations, that may be required at least for a period.”