Schools will definitely not reopen to all pupils straight after half-term, it is being reported this morning.
A government source has told The Sunday Times: “We are in this for the long haul. We are going to start giving parents more information so they can start managing their expectations. Although we have not arrived at an exact date when we think schools will go back, it will not be after half-term.”
The newspaper is reporting that education secretary Gavin Williamson is expected this week to rule out children returning to the classroom after the February half-term holiday and that he will prepare parents for the prospect of many more months of homeschooling.
End of lockdown: Regional approach to school openings ‘likely’
The Sunday Times also says it is understood that when schools reopen, it will be on a staggered basis with those in specific year groups, such as those studying for GCSEs and A levels, allowed to return first.
Coronavirus: Staggered school reopening 'likely'
Rotas could also be introduced, with pupils in certain year groups being taught every other week from home, the newspaper says.
It reports a Number 10 source as saying: “May is a very long way away and if it was left to the NHS and the scientists, they are in favour of pushing back the return date for schools for as long as possible. One thing is for sure — we will not risk coming out of this lockdown if there is any risk that we will be plunged into another.”
Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday this morning, health secretary Matt Hancock said the lifting of lockdown was a “long, long way off” and that case numbers were “incredibly high” and the NHS remained under intense pressure.
Asked if schools were going to return "at Easter", Mr Hancock said: "I would hope so but we have got to look at the data. We have got to look at the impact of the vaccination programme.
“The education secretary has said that we will ensure schools get two weeks’ notice of return. I don’t know whether it will be then or before then. We have got to watch the data.”
On Thursday Mr Williamson pledged to give teachers "a clear two weeks'" notice of any reopening date and said he “would certainly hope” that schools would be open before the Easter holidays.