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Petition All nurseries and places of education to stay closed after Xmas to 15 January

The Government should delay the return to nurseries, schools, colleges and universities until 15.01.21, by requiring them to remain closed until this date, to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus as much as possible following the relaxations of restrictions.

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The relaxation of restrictions over the Xmas period plus the fact that many may ignore restrictions over the festive period is likely to lead to a growth in the R rate. The delay of all education until the 15.01.21 will prevent mass gatherings at schools and Universities and delay the travel of 1.2 million students until a stage when restrictions have been reimposed for some time. This should control a predicted surge in cases and hospitalisation, ease pressure on the NHS and implements the SAGE advice of needing a more severe set of restrictions implemented for easing over the Xmas period.

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Government responded

This response was given on 26 January 2021

On 4 January, the PM announced restriction of attendance at education settings, except early years, to vulnerable children and young people and children of critical workers, to reduce transmission.

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On Monday 4 January, the Government announced the decision to restrict attendance at education settings from Tuesday 5 January in order to reduce transmission. During this period, primary, secondary, alternative provision, special schools and colleges will remain open to vulnerable students, children and young people and the children of critical workers only (recognising that the characteristics of the cohorts in special schools and alternative provision will mean these settings continue to offer face-to-face provision for all pupils, where appropriate). Universities and other higher education providers have been asked to resume in-person teaching only for the highest priority courses (such as medicine, healthcare and teaching).

Early years provision should continue to allow all children to attend full time or their usual timetabled hours. This includes early years registered nurseries and childminders, maintained nursery schools, as well as nursery classes in schools and other pre-reception provision on school sites. Only vulnerable children and children of critical workers should attend reception classes.

There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, early education gives children the communication and social skills which set them up for life. You cannot care for a very small child online and you can’t get those months back. Secondly, our PHE advice remains that young children are less susceptible to the virus and play a lower role in transmission, usually because young children have lower contact outside their household. And thirdly, the evidence at the moment is that the confirmed case rates of COVID amongst the very youngest children are the lowest of all age groups.

We continue to prioritise keeping early years settings open and allowing all children to attend because of the clear benefits to children’s education and wellbeing and to support working parents. Caring for the youngest age group is not something that can be done remotely. Wraparound childcare for school aged children can continue to allow all vulnerable children to attend, and children of critical workers, to ensure critical workers can continue to work, seek work, attend education or training, or to attend medical appointments.

The reason for limiting attendance, more broadly, is to reduce the transmission of the virus by reducing the overall number of social contacts in the community, it is not because schools or colleges have become significantly less safe. Evidence shows there is a very low risk of children and young people becoming very unwell from coronavirus (COVID-19), even for children and young people with existing health conditions.

Our priority will now be to help teachers provide the best quality remote learning for the majority of pupils and students whilst ensuring that those vulnerable children and young people and children of critical workers still have access to in-person education. Additional resource will be in place to provide students the ability to access quality online education. 560,000 laptops have already been delivered to schools and additional devices are being made available to primary, secondary, and further education establishments. This is in addition to ensuring that connectivity packages are also available to those that need it.

We will also be looking at the impact of online education across the sector with a view to ensuring that those students impacted by the pandemic are able to catch up on missed education.

Schools and colleges are expected to provide remote education equivalent in length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school/college. This will include both recorded or live direct teaching time, and time for pupils to complete tasks and assignment independently. As a minimum:

• 3 hours a day for KS1, on average across the cohort with less for younger children.
• 4 hours a day for KS2
• 5 hours a day for KS4 and KS5

With most pupils now having to learn remotely and schools/colleges having made huge progress in developing their remote education provision, it is right that we increase the expectations on what pupils receive.

In higher education, most students will study from their current residence, where possible, until at least mid-February. We are only prioritising the return to face-to-face teaching for courses which are most important to be delivered in-person, in order to support the pipeline of future key workers.

All other students should not return to campus. They are being asked to stay where they are and access their learning online during the period of national restriction. Remaining students should be able to return, on a staggered basis, once national restrictions are lifted.

Universities will provide access to university facilities on an exceptional basis only, where students do not have alternative accommodation or facilities to access online learning elsewhere, or where they have health reasons to do so. This includes international students.

As higher education providers will be providing asymptomatic testing as part of the Spring term plan, all students, including returning international students, commuter students and those staying at their term-time accommodation over the winter break should be tested. The more people that are tested, the better we can mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 and everyone’s university experience can improve. Therefore, students should be tested twice, three days apart, even if the first test is negative.

Department for Education

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