England’s Back-to-School Plan Unchanged but Under Review: Minister

December 28, 2020 Updated: December 28, 2020

The UK government is sticking to its original plan for students in England to start returning to school next week, although the plan is under review, a senior cabinet minister said on Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been determined to keep children in school since September, after schools reopened from a shutdown that had begun on March 20. But, after a more infectious variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus was identified in England, Johnson refused to rule out a second school closure.

Michael Gove, the second most senior minister in the cabinet, told Sky News on Monday that the back-to-school plan in England hasn’t changed.

From Jan. 4, “our plan is that primary schools will go back,” Gove said.

For secondary schools, “only children in year 11 and year 13, that’s those who are doing their GCSEs, their BTECs, their A-levels, those will go back,” he added, “and also children of key workers, and children who are vulnerable and who need the support and care that school can provide.”

The rest of the secondary school students will be taught online for a week before returning.

Gove said the exams will go ahead in the summer because it’s “critically important” for children to have “robust, independently scrutinized qualifications that are a passport to a better future.”

In a separate interview, Gove said the plan is still subject to change.

“We do keep things under review, and we’ll be talking to head teachers and teachers in the next 24 and 48 hours just to make sure that our plans … are right and robust,” Gove told Times Radio.

“One of the things we want to do is to make sure that with teachers and head teachers we’re in a position to have a safe return to school,” Gove told BBC Breakfast. “And that safe returning to school is built on making sure that we have effective testing.”

Gove said that teachers and headteachers have been working incredibly hard during the Christmas holiday period on the testing system.

The government announced on Dec. 15 that a rapid CCP virus testing programme will be rolled out from January in all secondary schools and colleges, special schools, and alternative provision in England.

As part of an initial rollout, all staff in secondary schools and colleges will be eligible for weekly rapid tests. Staff and students who are identified as a close contact can opt to get daily testing for seven days instead of self-isolating.