Schools, colleges and nurseries are to reopen to all pupils on a full-time basis in September, following months of closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.
While it’s good news that schools have been given the green light to open their doors as normal for the start of the new term, parents who don’t send their children back could be landed with a hefty fine.
‘It is compulsory’
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has warned that parents will face being fined if they refuse to get their children back into education.
The Department of Education has confirmed that schools and local authorities will be able to issue fines of up to £120 to parents whose children do not attend school "without good reason.”
Mr Williamson stressed that the planned return for all pupils in England is compulsory and unless there is a “good reason” for their child’s absence, such as a local lockdown, parents could be liable to a fine.
Appearing on Sky News, Mr Williamson said, “We are making schools compulsory. We know how important it is for our children to be going back to school.
“We’ve made it clear that it is compulsory - parents need to be sending their children back to school.
“Ultimately if they continue to ignore the fact that their children should be in schools, if they continue to fail to work with the schools to get their children back well then at the most extreme level they could be liable to a fine.”
Since the UK lockdown was imposed in March, only children in reception, year one and year six have been allowed to return to classrooms, but the rules now include other year groups if there is space.
Secondary schools in England have also been allowed to welcome some students back from years 10, 11 and 12, as of 15 June.
Plans for all primary children to return to schools before the summer holidays were scrapped by the government, with the full reopening now scheduled for September.
How will pupils be kept safe?
The government confirmed that current restrictions on group sizes will be lifted to allow educational institutions to fully reopen, as coronavirus infection rates continue to fall.
For nurseries, childminders, and other early years providers, restrictions on group sizes will be lifted from 20 July, increasing capacity from the start of the summer holiday.
However, schools, colleges and nurseries must keep Covid-19 secure measures in place to help minimise the risk of transmission between children and teachers once they reopen. This will include keeping children and young people in consistent class or year group ‘bubbles’ in schools, and encouraging older children to keep their distance from each other and staff wherever possible.
These guidelines are to be implemented alongside other protective measures, including regular cleaning and handwashing, reducing the use of frequently shared items and minimising contact in corridors.
The government will also provide schools and colleges with home testing kits for both staff and children who would otherwise be unable to get a test.