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Breaking news: Change in plan for return to school for secondary school students in England - what does it mean for children with SEND?

Wednesday 30th December 2020

Following the government's announcement on 17th December outlining a proposed staggered return to school in January for mainstream secondary school pupils and college students in England, the government has today announced a new plan for the start of term.

The changes - outlined below - come after government health and scientific advisers suggested schools may have to close to keep the new, more contagious coronavirus strain under control and to allow time for mass testing in schools.

  • Most mainstream secondary school pupils and college students aged 11-18 will not return to school or college to resume lessons until Monday 18 January.
  • As before, mainstream secondary schools will be open for the start of term on 4 January for vulnerable children and children with parents or carers who are key workers.
  • Children and young people with Education Health and Care (EHC) plans are included in the "vulnerable" category. However they do not have to return to class until all pupils go back on 18th and after Covid-19 testing has started.
  • Special schools have been given additional flexibility as to when pupils should return to school. Please talk to your child's school about these arrangements if you are worried or unclear
  • Children and young people from year 7 and above will need to wear to masks while at school when they return. Previous exemptions regarding mask-wearing for children with SEND will continue in mainstream schools.
  • Special schools have been given more discretion on the wearing of masks for their pupils. 
  • Year 11 and Year 13 exam students receive remote education from 4 January and will not return to school on this date as previously outlined. Pupils in exam group years 11 and 13 will be given priority testing for Covid-19 which should enable them to start returning to school for face to face classes from 11 January.
  • Free coronavirus tests should be made available to all secondary school pupils and college students, along with their teachers when they return to school on the 11 January if they are in years 11 and 13 or from 18 January if they are in non exam years. The testing is being offered to minimise cases and transmission of the virus following return of students after the Christmas break and anyone who tests positive at this point will be asked to isolate in the usual way.
  • Children who are shielding and living in tier 4 are advised to stay at home and continue to shield. 

Please note that school opening and closure dates may differ according to regional tiers but all mainstream secondary school students are expected to be back in school from the week beginning 18 January.

The educations secretary Gavin Williamson also announced today that the majority of primary schools will open from 4 January as normal. However in a small number of areas where the infection rates are highest, the government has said it will implement its existing contingency framework, so that only vulnerable children and children of critical workers will attend face to face.

The list of these areas will be published later on the government's website.

Children attending early years settings will be able to return on 4 January.

We will update our information as soon as any further government updates are announced.