Are schools closing in Tier 4 in January?

SOME pupils could be stuck at home until February under government plans to stagger the reopening of schools in the New Year due to mounting Covid cases.

Only primary school kids and Years 11 and 13 are expected to return to class on January 4 – but what does this mean for people living in Tier 4?

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Will schools close in Tier 4?

According to Downing Street, schools and nurseries can stay open Tier 4 – but will see a staggered return from the Christmas break.

The government said: “Schools and colleges will remain open during term time in tier 4 areas. The government will continue to prioritise the wellbeing and long-term futures of our young people.

"It remains very important for children and young people to attend, to support their wellbeing and education and help working parents and guardians. 

“Senior clinicians still advise that school is the best place for children to be, and so they should continue to go to school during term time.”

Boris Johnson confirmed that travelling to Tier 4 areas for education would be permitted when he announced London and the south east would be placed under the tight restrictions on December 20, 2020.

When do schools return after Christmas bank holiday?

A staggered return to schools will begin on January 4 with primary school kids and pupils in Year 11 and Year 13 who are preparing for GCSEs and A-Levels.

This will be followed by vulnerable children and children of critical workers. 

This includes Tier 4 areas with Downing Street pledging to roll out mass testing for hard-hit areas in London and the South East to help suppress the spread of the bug.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said the Government is still set on staggering the reopening of schools as planned, but he also warned of "trade-offs".

He told Times Radio: "We do keep things under review, and we'll be talking to head teachers and teachers in the next 24, 48 hours just to make sure that our plans… are really robust."

He said: "It is our intention to make sure we can get children back to school as early as possible. But we all know that there are trade-offs.

"As a country we have decided – and I think this is the right thing to do – that we prioritise children returning to school.

"But we have a new strain and it is also the case that we have also had, albeit in a very limited way, Christmas mixing, so we do have to remain vigilant."

Mr Gove warned current plans could be changed amid reviews, with longer periods of enforced online learning as a possibility.

In Scotland, pupils will not return to school on January 11 as planned. 

Students will instead use online learning until at least January 18, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed.

What coronavirus measures are in place in schools?

The guidance for schools to help stem transmission remains the same as before. 

Measures already being used by schools include hand sanitiser stations, one-way systems and staggered break times.

Social distancing is also advised wherever possible for older students, with younger children encouraged to mix in small groups or “bubbles”

In schools and colleges where year 7 and above are educated, the government said face coverings should be worn by both staff and pupils when indoors.

Pupils in England and Wales must also wear face masks in communal areas. 

Secondary schools in England will be offered “access to additional coronavirus testing from the first week of January”, according to the Goverment website.

The website reads: “This will help deliver the national priority of keeping as many pupils and teachers as possible in school beyond the start of term, minimising the spread of the virus and disruption caused by coronavirus cases arising in education settings."

If a pupil tests positive, they must be sent home to self-isolate for ten days.

The school must then contact their local public health protection team – who will advise on other pupils or staff who should be sent home.

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