Coronavirus school closures: what does it mean for exams

Last week, Boris Johnson announced plans to close all schools in the UK to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Schools will be shut until further notice for all pupils except children of key workers and the most vulnerable.

Here is everything we know about the shut-down.

When will schools close?

Schools, sixth-forms and colleges across the UK closed after the final bell on Friday, March 20. Schools in Northern Ireland were already closed.

How long will they be shut?

Schools will be closed until further notice. At the moment, there is no indication from the Government when the school term might resume.

Will nurseries be open?

No. The same advice applies to nurseries.

Are my children in danger of getting the coronavirus?

Children can spread droplet-based viruses because they interact physically so much with each other and are not the best at keeping themselves clean. The virus appears to impact older people more commonly but children can be infected and they can get severe illness, the Government warns.

However, you can greatly lower the risk that children pose of spreading or catching viruses by:

  • Explaining to them how germs spread and the importance of good hand and face hygiene
  • Keeping household surfaces clean, especially kitchens, bathrooms, door handles and light switches
  • Using clean or disposable cloths to wipe surfaces so you don’t transfer germs from one surface to another
  • Giving everyone their own towel and making sure they know not to share toothbrushes etc
  • Keep your home dry and airy (bugs thrive in musty environments)

Read more: How can I protect my family?

I’m a key worker – can my children still go to school?

The Government is working on plans to allow children of key workers — such as NHS staff and emergency services — to attend school.

Professor Chris Whitty, the Government’s chief medical officer said: “We are very keen that in addition to closing schools we also made it possible for NHS staff to have their children go to school, for them to be looked after if that is what is needed for them (the parents) to be able to go to work.”

He added: “What we are trying to do is make sure that this is not disruptive to the NHS any more than we can avoid.”

Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, said that schools should remain open for children of “key workers” and those who are “most vulnerable”. 

He said it is safe for “small numbers” of children to continue attending schools. He said “key workers” includes NHS staff, police and delivery drivers. 

Frontline health and social care staff, people involved in food production and delivery, and utility workers are among a list of workers deemed “essential” to the Covid-19 response.

The Government published a list of “key workers” in the early hours of Friday whose children will continue to be cared for at school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Who can look after my children and what help is available?

Mr Johnson has said children should not be left with elderly relatives.

The Government advises that people reduce unnecessary social contact, advising that childcare should, where possible, be kept within the household.

What about exams?

Mr Williamson confirmed that assessments and examinations will not take place in the current academic year.

GCSE and A-level exams will not take place, but pupils will still get qualifications, Mr Johnson said, though the Government has not yet released details on how this would work in practice.

Why is it necessary to close schools?

Prof Whitty has said that school is “not dangerous” for children during the coronavirus pandemic, but that it is important to close them to slow the rise of infections.

The Government has been criticised for not closing schools sooner. 

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister insisted that schools did not need to shut but the scientific advice appears to have changed as the virus has spread quickly.

Mr Johnson said: “We think now that we must apply further downward pressure with that upward curve by closing schools.”

Around the world, about 850 million children and young people are being sent home from schools and universities to stop the spread of coronavirus, according to Unesco.

What can I do with my children?

It is important that both children and adults exercise while in social isolation. Being outside in a park is good — but avoid any unnecessary social contact.

Prof Whitty suggests going to the park, or for a walk, but try to avoid meeting other people or crowding together for a long time.

Some schools have been been preparing for a shut-down for a while, with some creating homework packs or online lessons.

Click here for handy tips from educating parents to help you keep your child on track while learning remotely. 

Stuck for something to do? Try one of these easy, fun recipes to keep the kids entertained.

Will independent schools also be closed?


Will private school fees be refunded?

The Government has asked independent schools and boarding schools to close. Parents who pay tens of thousands of pounds in fees for private and independent schools will be wondering whether they are entitled to refunds or discounts.

Some parents who are still commuting to work or who need help at home may also struggle to afford to cost of emergency childcare.

Some schools have contingencies in place, such as online learning, but some do not.

Read more about private schools here. 

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