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Covid: What are the new rules for schools?

Source BBC News

Children in England are now returning to school, after months of enforced home-schooling.

However, there will be some major changes to the normal school experience.

How will testing work in schools?
Students in England will be tested for Covid-19 three times in the first two weeks of school. After that they will be given two tests each week to use at home.

These will be lateral flow tests, which involve taking a swab of the nose and throat. The sample is then inserted into a tube of liquid and gives a result within 30 minutes.

Testing is voluntary and children will only be tested in school if a parent or carer has given consent. Pupils will not be stopped from returning to school if they do not agree to be tested, or are unable to take a test.

Staff or pupils who test positive should self-isolate. If the test is done at home, they should also book a second test at a local test centre to confirm the result.

You should not send your child to school or college if they:

Have Covid-19 symptoms, or live with someone who has symptoms
Have tested positive themselves, or live with someone who has tested positive
Are a close contact of someone who has Covid-19
Are required to self-isolate for travel-related reasons
All primary and secondary school staff are also being offered twice-weekly rapid tests, and parents and carers can also get a twice-weekly test.

The prime minister has said schools are safe and the risk to children is small, but testing staff and pupils will offer “greater reassurance”.

All teaching staff as well as senior phase pupils (S4 and above) will be offered home tests twice a week in Scotland.

All school staff in Wales will also be offered twice-weekly rapid tests.

Students and teachers at special schools in Northern Ireland are being offered weekly tests. An announcement regarding other schools is expected within the coming days.

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Will children have to wear masks?
Students and staff in English secondary schools, colleges, and universities have to wear face coverings indoors – including in classrooms – unless 2m (6ft) social distancing can be maintained.

The government has said it will review its guidance again at Easter.

The rules do not apply to younger children in nurseries and primary schools, but teachers, staff and adult visitors should wear face coverings where possible.

Some students and adults may be exempt – such as those who cannot use a face covering because of a disability or illness, and those who rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate.

From 15 March, as part of the second phase of schools returning in Scotland, all secondary pupils will be asked to wear masks, including in class.

In Wales, face coverings must be worn by secondary school students and staff everywhere outside the classroom.

Secondary school students in Northern Ireland are required to wear face coverings both inside and outside the classroom.

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How are schools reopening?
Attendance will be mandatory for all pupils in England – meaning they should not miss school without a valid reason.

However, secondary schools have been told that year groups can return on different days over the first week to allow for Covid testing.

Students who are shielding have been asked to remain at home for a bit longer.

Pupils in primary schools in Scotland will return full-time from 15 March. There will also be a phased return of secondary students from the same date.

Wales’ youngest students began returning in February and all primary school students will go back by 15 March in a “flexible way”. Secondary school students are currently expected to return full-time in mid-April.

In Northern Ireland, classes for younger primary pupils are now allowed to take place face-to-face.

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What about after-school clubs and activities?
After-school clubs and wrap-around childcare will only be available for some pupils for this term – for instance, vulnerable children, or those whose parents have to work, or have medical needs.

The government says it hopes to restore normal provision by the beginning of the summer term, but no earlier than 12 April, as part of stage two of its “roadmap” out of lockdown.

What is happening about exams?
In England, A-levels, AS levels and GCSE exams have been cancelled and teachers’ estimated grades will be used instead.

Results will be published earlier in August to allow time to appeal.

Primary school SATs will not go ahead this year, nor will phonics or timetable testing.

In Scotland, grades will be based on teacher assessment. Welsh students will have their grades determined by teachers, based on evidence such as mock exams and coursework.

In Northern Ireland, schools will have to submit the grades they think pupils should be awarded at the end of May.