Schools return today as part of the first step of the roadmap

This is the fourth big return to school in England since the start of the pandemic last March.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the return as an important first step towards a “sense of normality”.

It is the next step on Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown as more and more Brits receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

The government is considering various measures to help pupils including longer school days and shorter holidays, according to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

All children will be able to head back into the classroom, but secondary schools can stagger the return of students over the week to allow for mass testing.

Secondary school pupils will be asked to take three voluntary COVID-19 tests on site and one at home over the first fortnight – before being sent home-testing kits to do twice a week.

Children’s Minister Vicky Ford said face masks would be “strongly recommended”. But they are not compulsory, as some pupils might be “very anxious and nervous” about them, said the minister.

The latest lockdown has seen the cancellation of A-level, GCSE and vocational exams, and pupils will return to study for a new system based on teachers’ grades.

The government has announced £1.7bn to support catch-up schemes, such as tutoring and summer clubs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday that there were dangers involved in keeping classrooms shut for too long when asked about the risks of schools returning.

“I think the risk is actually in not going back to school tomorrow given all the suffering, all the loss of learning we have seen,” he said.

“I do think we are ready, I think people want to go back, they feel it, they feel the need for it.”

Amanda Spielman, England’s chief schools inspector, expressed concern about eating disorders and self-harming among some children after she said pupils had endured “boredom, loneliness, misery and anxiety” during two months of home-learning.

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