UK

Return to school: When are children due to go back to classrooms?

Plans for when schools will reopen following the Christmas break differ across the UK amid the fast-spreading variant of COVID-19.

Here is a breakdown of the situation with schools across the four nations:

England

Primary schools in all of London’s boroughs and some of those in Essex, Kent, East Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire will not reopen until 18 January due to the rise in coronavirus cases.

They include Brentwood, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Basildon, Rochford, Harlow, Chelmsford, Braintree, Maldon, Southend on Sea, Thurrock, Dartford, Gravesham, Sevenoaks, Medway, Ashford, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells, Swale, Hastings, Rother, Watford, Broxbourne, Hertsmere, Three Rivers and Milton Keynes.

Primary schools elsewhere have been told to stay open and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said parents should send children back to classrooms where they are not closed this week.

However, local councils across the country have said they will support head teachers that decide it is safer if schools remain shut.

Secondary schools will have a staggered return, with those taking exams this year resuming in-person teaching on 11 January and other year groups on 18 January.

Teaching unions are calling for all primary and secondary schools in England to be closed for the next two weeks.

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Wales

Schools are set to use staggered returns for pupils in Wales, with face-to-face learning expected to return for most by 11 January and a full return before 18 January.

On Sunday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said a “phased and flexible return” had been agreed with local authorities, which would allow schools to choose their reopening date based on the coronavirus situation in their area.

He said the Welsh government would “keep this under consideration”, while its technical advisory group would look at all available evidence early next week.

Scotland

The Christmas break has been extended until 11 January, with teaching to be online only until 15 January.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the “planning assumption” remains to open schools for face-to-face learning on 18 January, but parents will be informed of any changes that may be necessary.

Northern Ireland

First Minister Arlene Foster said remote learning for school children should only be for a short period.

Primary pupils are to be taught remotely for the week from 4-8 January, while for secondary school Years 8 to 11, remote learning is due to last for the entire month.

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