Welcome to the Tes coronavirus liveblog. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is causing uncertainties for everyone.
Schools have faced unprecedented disruption, and are now gearing up reopen classrooms which have been closed to all but the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils since the start of term.
Here, we aim to help teachers in the UK and in international schools by gathering together all the relevant stories in one place and keeping you updated with the latest news and announcements as and when they happen.
And, as ever, we also want to hear from you. What is different in your school and in your working life because of the virus? If you have stories you want to share or information you think should be circulated, then contact us at:
‘Anxious’ pupils will not be forced to wear masks, says minister
Children’s minister Vicky Ford says face masks are not being made mandatory in secondary school classrooms because some students will be “very anxious and nervous" about wearing them.
Last week, the government was accused of putting “enormous pressure” on teachers because of the confusion over rules on mask-wearing, and said the government should “come down firmly on one side or another and provide clearly definitive regulations” to help teachers.
But the minister told Radio 4 today that masks were being “strongly encouraged” rather than mandatory.
Read the story here
We want you back (to school) for good, sing teachers
Today was momentous for teachers and pupils, as schools reopened more widely - and one school decided to cheer their students with a heart-warming rendition of Take That’s seminal 90s hit ‘Back for Good’ to welcome students.
At the King's Rochester school in Kent, headteacher Ben Charles, prep school head Tom Morgan and head of nursery and pre-prep Catherine Openshaw, serenaded students returning today with the lyrics: "Whatever we said, whatever we did, we’ve been through it, we just want you back for good."
The video also features school chaplain Father Padfield, and has been tweeted by Take That band member Gary Barlow himself.
As the fab five (now three) once sang, in these testing times, everyone will need to have a little "Patience"...
Read more here.
Teachers reveal reality of ‘social distancing’ in schools
Teachers on social media have posted images of their classrooms to counteract images in the media of schools where pupils sit behind Perspex screens or sit two metres apart.
"I'm lucky to have the largest room, but I have 35 children so moving 18 tables into rows means we can't easily move around or access the drawers at the back. Every corner is a door or sink that we can't block. No social distancing. No screens," teacher Emma Stanley said.
Another secondary teacher posted an image of a group of desks very close to the board, saying "definitely 2m away from the board apparently. Nothing to see here", while another doctored a media image of how classrooms might look as all students returned today, adding a “howling gale” and a 75cm gap between students and teachers.
Read more here.
Prime minister: ‘Big budget of risk’ in reopening schools
Prime minister Boris Johnson said there was a “big budget of risk” involved in reopening schools more widely, speaking at today’s briefing.
"I think it's fantastic that the vaccine rollout is proving so successful but don't forget that there is a big budget of risk involved in opening schools today in the way that we are, that's just inevitable," he said.
Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, added that schools would “hopefully” not need to close again.Mr Johnson also said that helping students catch up lost learning from the pandemic was “our biggest national challenge”.
Covid: Teachers ‘more at risk from colleagues than pupils’
Teachers have been warned to “be careful” in the staffroom as schools return today - because other teachers are more of a risk than pupils when it comes to spreading the virus.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), issued the warning on BBC breakfast this morning when he said advice for teachers “is going to be wearing face masks, being really careful in the common room [because] their colleagues are more of a risk to them than the children".
Read the story here.
U-turn after minister sparks Covid test confusion
This morning the children's minister said that pupils will need to stay home after a positive rapid test result, even if a subsequent PCR test comes back negative.
But Downing Street has now issued a clarification which negates Vicky Ford's comments.
The PM's spokesman said it will be fine for pupils who initially got a positive result at home to return to the classroom if they get the all-clear from a follow-up PCR test.
Read the full story here.
Government shouldn't 'equivocate' over masks in schools
As schools reopened for all pupils today, joint-general secretary of the NEU teaching union, Mary Bousted said all secondary pupils should wear masks in classrooms and corridors unless there is a medical reason for them not to do so.
She was reacting to DfE policy that mask wearing should be “strongly encouraged” rather than mandatory because some students will be “very anxious and nervous" about wearing them.
Dr Bousted said ministers shouldn’t be “equivocating” about the matter, especially as government guidelines say mask wearing in secondary schools will reduce virus transmission.
Read the story here.
Schools struggle with parents’ consent over Covid tests
Most headteachers have found obtaining parents' consent for school Covid tests difficult, a by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) suggests.
It found that 52 per cent of heads had faced an issue with obtaining parental consent when providing Covid tests to students for the full reopening of schools.
The next most common problems were finding adequate space in schools to set up testing stations and recruiting enough staff to run them, with 43 per cent saying both issues had been a problem.
You can read more here.
All pupils are returning and Tes is here to help
We've finally got here. If you teach in England then 8 March must be one of the most anticipated dates for a long time
All pupils have started to return to the classroom today and for some that is likely to present huge challenges. At Tes we're here to help.
That means of course bringing you all the news and analysis as it happens, like education secretary Gavin Williamson's suggestion of a shortened summer holiday and longer school day made over the weekend.
So good luck today. And remember, whatever the next few weeks throws at you, you can always turn to Tes for news, help and advice.
You can catch-up on last week's coronavirus related schools news here.