EDUCATION: When could Liverpool’s schools reopen?
Liverpool’s schools remain shut to classroom learning under the lockdown, with many parents wondering when their kids will go back.
While the children of key workers and vulnerable children are still going into school in many cases, most children across the city are currently learning remotely.
Schools are still functioning – but remote learning poses many challenges for teachers and families.
Coronavirus infection rates remain high in the city as across the UK, with schools seen as a key factor in the transmission of the virus.
While available data shows that the virus poses little risk to the vast majority of children, the potential for them to pass it on to others remains a key concern.
Nevertheless, many parents are hoping that children could go back to school in the coming weeks, with many education experts warning that extended periods of time outside the classroom can pose serious long term risks to children.
When could schools in our region go back?
The earliest date that schools could reopen across England remains March 8, which Boris Johnson outlined last month.
The Prime Minister is set to give more details about the easing of lockdown restrictions in the week starting February 22.
Classroom learning is expected to be the first thing to return as part of the easing of lockdown, with concern from teachers and parents about the impact of extended periods outside the classroom.
The impacts of classroom closures are being felt most by those children who are most vulnerable, such as those who rely on free school meals and who do not have access to the technology necessary to learn remotely.
However, there is concern among some medical experts that school reopening could cause a spike in infection rates and further pressurise hospitals, which have already been dealing with extremely difficult conditions for months.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said that schools will receive a two-week notice period before they reopen in order to allow staff to prepare for the return of pupils.
What would the return to classrooms look like?
It is still unclear how children would return to schools, with more detail expected when the Prime Minister outlines the government’s lockdown easing plans.
In Scotland, where children return on February 22, it is planned that schools will return in a phased way.
There, the youngest children and those in secondary school who need to finish coursework soon are likely to go back first, though First Minister Nicolas Sturgeon has said the plan depends on infection levels.
In Wales, children aged three to seven are also set to return after the February half-term from 22 February, along with some older children on vocational courses.
It is possible that children in England could return in the same way, with phased returns for some year groups.
Schools in Liverpool already have extensive preparations underway, with testing systems organised by the council or set up independently to try to prevent outbreaks.
However, it is unknown what the amount of time in school or the focus of the curriculum will look like, with some saying the summer holiday should be shortened or the school day lengthened to help pupils catch up.
Words: Nick Tyrrell, Local Democracy Reporter
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