Back to the Classroom!

Author: Adam Heppell

Date: Tuesday 2nd March 2021

The end of lockdown is within sight. The government has issued its roadmap with implications for the education and training sector.  Whether you have children at various stages of education or perhaps you are looking to return to education yourself, it can be difficult to keep track of the changes.

All schools in England are to return from March 8th. Some schools in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are already open. Attendance will be compulsory for pupils with fines possible for non-attendance.  Free Covid tests will be offered to the families or extended bubbles of pupils in England. Secondary pupils could have Covid tests twice a week. Tests will also be available to adults working within schools, such as teachers, bus drivers and activity club leaders.

Primary and Secondary Schools

In primary schools, the government recommends that face coverings should be worn by staff and adult visitors where social distancing is not possible, such as corridors and communal areas. Children do not need to wear a face covering.  (subject to change)

Back to school8

Secondary school pupils are recommended to have regular Covid tests. Home testing is strongly encouraged, with parents expected to carry out the testing. Social distancing must be observed as often as possible within schools.  Government guidelines recommend that children aged 11 and above should wear face coverings alongside staff in classrooms and when moving indoors.  Face coverings do not need to be worn by pupils when outside.  Face coverings do not need to be worn for strenuous exercise or PE lessons. Afterschool clubs can resume on March 8th.

Summer Schooling

Provision for extra classes in England could be in the pipeline for students who need to catch up, potentially starting with those who will be moving to secondary school.  An extra £400m in funding has been announced by the government, along with £300m already set aside for catch-up projects back in January.

The government has pledged a  £302m ‘recovery premium’ for primary and secondary schools to boost summer schooling and activity clubs. £200m will fund face-to-face summer schools for secondary education. An expanded national tutoring programme worth £200m has also been promised for primary and secondary pupils, alongside an extended tuition fund for 16 to 19-year-olds.

Exam Grades

There has been much discussion regarding student examinations this summer with GCSEs and A-Levels cancelled in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this year. Last year’s controversial algorithm was scrapped following the mass downgrading of results.  It has been announced that teachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will decide final grades.  A combination of predicted grades, mock exams, coursework, and essays will be used.


An optional examination will be provided by exam boards for all subjects, but this will not be mandatory or taken in traditional exam conditions. Results will be published earlier than usual in August to allow time for students to appeal.  For those who are studying vocational courses with a practical element, it has been confirmed that those exams will still take place in a Covid secure manner.

In Scotland, Higher, Advanced and National 5 exams have been cancelled for 2021, with final grades also decided by teachers.

The reaction to teacher grading among pupils has been positive. According to research carried out by the BBC, some feel less pressure and are better able to stay focused. Some are relieved that they do not have to take exams in front of their peers in a large room. Some are reassured, knowing teachers are deciding final grades.

 Further Education and Universities

Most universities and colleges have already declared that their courses will remain digital for the remainder of the academic year. However, some students have already been allowed on campus to attend lessons in person only where face-to-face teaching or placements are needed to deliver learning outcomes, such as dentistry, teaching degrees, social work and policing. 

For a comprehensive look at the government guidelines relating to schools and education, click here.