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Schools are reopening in September – what does the guidance say? 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that all school children will be back at school by the start of the new academic year in September.

A final draft of government guidance for the schools seen exclusively by The Telegraph revealed the new measures to be introduced, including: classes arranged into “bubbles”, strict behaviour regimes, banning choirs and assemblies and even overhauling the curriculum.

How would the school curriculum change?

The curriculum might be curtailed to focus solely on maths and English for a year, to allow pupils to ‘catch up’ and fill any gaps in their “core knowledge”. Pupils taking their GCSEs next summer could need to drop some subjects entirely to make room for extra maths and English lessons, and children in Year 7 might need to be retaught parts of the English and maths syllabus from their final year at primary school.

Students will be quizzed regularly to ensure they have a full grasp of the curriculum, and the government recommends a “broad and ambitious” curriculum, including a wide range of subjects.

Teachers have also been told that they must incorporate remote learning into their lesson plans, as it may need to be an “essential component” of a child’s learning if there is a local lockdown and a school is closed down. Schools have also been told to have a contingency plan in place for remote learning by the end of September at the latest, incorporating high quality online resources and teaching videos, as well as printed worksheets and textbooks for those who do not have computers. Remote learning must also be delivered for children who are shielding or continuing to self-isolate at home.

All league tables have been suspended for the next academic year. GCSEs and A Levels will take place in summer 2021, but with some “adaptions” which will “free up teaching time” (more details to come from Ofqual in the coming weeks). There will also be GCSE and A Level exams this autumn for students wishing to appeal against the predicted grades they are given this summer.

As well as overhauling the curriculum, the government has altered its approach to social distancing within school walls. Students will not need to socially distance – instead, they will be grouped into “bubbles” (either in classes or year groups) and these students will have their lessons, breaks and lunchtimes together. This approach reduces the risk of transmission and, if a pupil does get Covid-19, also limits the number of pupils who would need to self-isolate.

If there is an outbreak in a school (defined as two or more cases of coronavirus, or overall rise in sickness and absence where Covid-19 is suspected to be the cause, within two weeks) the school will need to liaise with their local health protection team who will advise on whether further action is needed. This could include asking a number of pupils to stay at home and self-isolate or encouragement for pupils and teachers to be tested – but school closures will “not generally be necessary”.

Classroom layouts will also be adapted. Instead of facing each other, all pupils will face the front of the classroom. Windows will be kept open where possible, and any unnecessary furniture removed to optimise space.

Assemblies and communal activities, such as prayer, will be banned. School choirs and ensembles (including playing brass or wind instruments) are also prohibited, as the government guidelines warns of an “additional risk of infection”.

Lunch and break times will be staggered, with each bubble needing to stay apart from other children as much as possible. School canteens will be allowed to open, but tables and chairs must be wiped down after use by each bubble of pupils.

Schools will also stagger start times for pupils, and ensure that they don’t coincide with rush hour. Parents will be told not to congregate by the school gates.

After almost six months at home, the government anticipate an increase in children’s bad behaviour, so recommends schools try to “reintegrate” children into school life. Children can be expelled – but only as a last resort.                                                                Source:  The Telegraph