The latest for parents as coronavirus pandemic closes schools

18/03/20

England

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson made a statement on 18th March announcing that schools in England will close from Friday afternoon on 20th March “until further notice”. He told the House of Commons, “Schools are increasingly finding it more difficult to continue as normal, as illness and self-isolation impacts on staffing levels and pupil attendance.” Children of key workers (NHS staff, police and delivery drivers) and vulnerable children may continue to attend school. The Education Secretary expects sixth forms and colleges, as well as boarding schools, follow suit. Children eligible for free school meals are to receive vouchers. 
Williamson also confirmed that:

  • Ofsted has ceased all inspections. 
  • Assessments and exams will not go ahead this year. 
  • Performance league tables will not be published this year.

The government has released, and is keeping updated, information for parents and carers about the closure of schools. This includes arrangements for schools and colleges remaining open for vulnerable children, children with SEND and children of critical workers, as well as details of how those categories are defined. We recommend that parents facing uncertainty keep checking back as more details emerge. 

Exams

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed that exams will not go ahead this summer. More information on alternative arrangements have now been released by the DfE. See further details on exams.

Wales

Minister for Education Kirsty Williams was the first to announce that schools would close, making a statement during the afternoon of 18th March. Schools will close on Friday 20th March, which gives parents a few days to make arrangements. 

She said, “Schools across Wales will close for statutory provision of education at the latest on 20 March 2020. I have been clear up to now that the continuity of education and the wellbeing of our learners has been at the heart of my decision making... The key areas we are looking at are supporting and safeguarding the vulnerable and ensuring continuity of learning.  We are looking in detail at how we can support and safeguard all those who benefit from free school meals and children with additional learning needs... Parents can, and should, speak with their usual childcare providers if they need care over the Easter holidays.” See Kirsty Williams’ full statement

Exams 

On examinations and grades, Kirsty Williams told journalists that she had met with Qualifications Wales and WJEC, who had provided her with options, but she did not foresee that summer exams would proceed to schedule. 

Northern Ireland

Education Minister Peter Weir appeared before Stormont’s Education Committee this morning (18th March). Although he did not announce schools would close during the session, it has subsequently been announced by First Minister Arlene Foster that schools will close from Monday 23rd. Special schools, which cater for the most vulnerable and at-risk pupils, had already closed. 

The Education Minister told MLAs, “It's important that in this horrific crisis that people don't miss out on their education.”

Exams

A level and GCSE exams in Northern Ireland will not go ahead this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, but pupils will still get results, Education Minister Peter Weir has said. See Q&A with Peter Weir about the plans to award students with grades on Belfast Telegraph.

Parentkind statement

Parentkind CEO John Jolly has said: “We welcome the decisions from the ministers for education, in conjunction with their governments, to close schools. We know that taking this step is something that many parents have been calling for, and have raised concerns about. Not only that, but head teachers and education professionals have expressed the concern that keeping schools open is increasingly unsustainable, and putting unfair strain on teachers and staff. Of course, the decision to close schools has not been taken lightly, and is a last resort in response to a serious and unusual situation. While keeping children, parents and teachers safe is the immediate priority for everybody, the knock-on effect on children’s learning of a protracted absence from school, and the potential mental health risks associated with anxiety and isolation, is a challenge we must all rise to in the weeks and months ahead, and once our normal way of life can resume. Parentkind will continue to support parents in finding ways to help their children learn at home, and we will release further resources soon. We will also work with education policymakers and professionals throughout this crisis and beyond, to ensure that parents have their voices heard every step of the way.”

More information for parents

The DfE in England is advising schools to ensure 'pupils can continue to receive their education even if not physically attending a school setting', as schools consider plans for virtual provision. Schools throughout the UK will keep parents informed of their plans.

To help you ensure your child maintains an education throughout the period of school closures, see our supporting learning section. Social media users can join us on Twitter and/or Facebook for all the latest resources and announcements designed to help you throughout this crisis. 

For more information on the Coronavirus, see Public Health England, Public Health Wales or the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

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