Closed petition Close schools and bring back online learning until the end of Jan 2022
Close schools down completely and have online learning till the end of January 2022 at least.
To slow the spread of COVID-19 through schools.
This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months
This response was given on 9 February 2022
We are clear on the critical importance of face to face education for children and young people and we will do everything in our power to keep education and childcare settings open.
Read the response in full
The evidence is clear that being out of education causes significant harm to educational attainment, life chances, mental and physical health. This disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged children. Therefore, the government made it a national priority that education and childcare settings should operate as normally as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students expect and deserve face-to-face teaching and support. Throughout the pandemic children, young people, their families and carers have shown patience and resilience. The Department is extremely grateful to schools which have remained open and provided face to face education. We must do right by the nation’s children and young people by ensuring that they can attend school in person wherever possible.
Analysis of learning loss shows that every day of education missed matters. Ofsted found that, despite remote education being offered, learning is still lost when pupils isolate, particularly when this happens repeatedly. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended protecting in-person schooling, with school closures considered only as a last resort.
A recent systematic review for SAGE found that the impacts of school closures on mental health and wellbeing was substantial, at a time when children are much less visible to protective systems, and access to help was reduced.
School attendance remains mandatory, and all the usual attendance rules continue to apply. The following measures are in place to minimise the risks:
Risk assessments and general controls
Schools should have updated risk assessments and contingency plans for when people test positive for COVID-19, including how to introduce any measures in the contingency framework to help break chains of transmission. Wherever additional measures are considered, the objective is rightly to maximise the number of children and young people in face-to-face teaching and minimise disruption of education.
Frequent and thorough hand cleaning is now regular practice. Schools should continue to ensure that pupils clean their hands regularly. The ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach continues.
Schools should maintain appropriate cleaning regimes and schedules using standard products, with a particular focus on frequently touched surfaces. UKHSA has published guidance on the cleaning of non-healthcare settings.
Face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors in classrooms or for pupils, staff and visitors in communal areas.
Staff and pupils should follow wider advice on face coverings outside of school, including when travelling to and from school. Face coverings were introduced in classrooms at the start of the spring term as a temporary measure.
This decision came in response to national infection data showing the prevalence of COVID-19 to be on a downward trajectory.
Secondary schools tested pupils once on-site on return in January, and the sector delivered brilliantly on this. Secondary pupils and all education staff should continue to test twice weekly at home. Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.
Young people and fully vaccinated adults who are identified as a close contact of someone with COVID can take an NHS LFD test every day for seven days and, if negative, can continue to attend their setting as normal.
CO2 monitors have been sent to state-funded education settings, backed by £25 million in government funding. Over 99% of eligible maintained schools, further education colleges, and the majority of early years settings have received a CO2 monitor with over 350,000 now delivered.
In January the government announced a further 8,000 funded air cleaning units for poorly ventilated teaching spaces in state funded education settings where quick fixes to improve ventilation are not possible. This is in addition to the 1,000 DfE-funded air cleaning units that were announced last year. An online marketplace has been launched enabling all schools, colleges and early years settings to buy air cleaning devices.
All young people aged 12-17 are eligible for their first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinating children should help reduce the spread of COVID-19 within schools.
Children aged 5 to 11, who are in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of someone (of any age) who is immunosuppressed, will be offered a vaccination.
Further advice regarding COVID-19 vaccination for other 5 to 11 year olds will be issued in due course following consideration of additional data.
Our aim is for schools to deliver face-to-face, high-quality education to all pupils in as normalised an educational environment as is possible, and we are extremely grateful for the efforts of workers in the education sector in this significant national effort to protect your young peoples’ futures.
Department for Education