Millions of children finally back to school today – but parents will face fines if they keep them home

Millions of children finally back to school today – but parents will face fines if they keep them home

September 1, 2020

MILLIONS of children across England have started returning to schools this morning, many for the first time in six months.

Pupils are finally getting back to the classrooms with strict coronavirus rules in place to keep young people safe.

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Four in ten schools in England will welcome back pupils for the autumn term today, with the rest reopening later this week.

Some 97 per cent of schools are ready to reopen fully in the next few days.

But parents who keep their children home will face fines for doing so, it was confirmed today.

It came as:

  • Boris Johnson pinned his hopes on getting people back in the office on all children returning to school from this week – but some will return gradually
  • Studies showed some kids would be nearly three months behind when they get back to class
  • Ministers admitted they could delay next year's exams for several weeks to give more time to study and catch up – but no decision has yet been made
  • Kids are more likely to get measles than covid, a top doctor said

NOT FINE

Ministers insisted that fines were to be used as a "tool" to get all kids back in class.

The Department for Education (DfE) said fines for parents who refuse to send their children to England's schools will only be used as a "last resort" when classes resume.

Local authorities can fine parents £120 – cut to £60 if paid within 21 days – over a child's absence from school, with the threat of prosecution if they fail to pay.

But NAHT boss Paul Whiteman called for a temporary ban on school absence fines.

He said: “If you are a parent worried about safety, a fine is unlikely to make you feel safer.

"The Government understands this, but the threat of fines still remains, so we're urging the Government to take the threat of fines off the table for the coming term.

"This would send a powerful signal to parents and families and could well mean that more of them are willing to bring their children back to school, which is what we all want to see."

NEW RULES

Children will face a string of new rules to have to abide by when they return to their classrooms.

They will have to wear face masks in corridors and communal areas in coronavirus hotspot areas.

And some headteachers have orderd kids to wear masks or visors anyway to try and keep them safe.

Pupils will be kept in bubbles of classes and even year groups, with no mixing with others allowed.

Some schools are introducing new 'zones' to keep kids apart, with separate classrooms, toilets and lunch areas to stop any spread.

Anyone with symptoms will have to take a rapid test and some children may be isolated.

But schools are unlikely to close unless there's a huge outbreak.

The PM has insisted that schools will be the last to close again in another lockdown.

BACK TO THE OFFICE

The PM’s push to get workers back in the office was given a huge lift when Lloyd’s of London confirmed a return of City life with its workers heading back today.

Staff at the insurance market company will make for their offices after the news was posted via a 14-minute YouTube video.

Mr Johnson hopes parents scrap home working as they no longer have childcare requirements.

A government source said: “We are hoping that the reopening of schools will naturally lead to many more working parents returning this week and next. We will assess the data before deciding next steps.”

A Whitehall source said the PM will order a fresh diktat to get civil servants back working in government departments this week after a shockingly low number returned in August.

THE FIGHT BEGINS

The huge uphill battle children face to catch up will be begin for many this morning.

A new poll showed kids completed an average of just two thirds of the national curriculum in the academic year to July.

Nearly 3,000 school leaders and teachers found that 98% felt students were not as far along with their learning as would normally be expected at the end of the 2019/20 school year.

And boys have fallen further behind than girls, a fifth of teachers from 2,200 primary and secondary schools said.

More than half of those teaching in the poorest schools reported students were at least four months behind.



EXAMS DELAYED?

Next year's exams could be delayed to give more time for them to catch up.

Ministers said a decision hadn't yet been made but would be done "soon".

Earlier this year it was suggested that the exam season could be pushed back from May to July to give pupils more time to finish their vital learning.

Schools minister Mr Gibb said today that the time needed for exam marking and the university admissions process is being considered.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The issues are not simple.

"We have to take into account the other nations in the UK which also use the GCSEs and A-levels in their term dates; you have to take into account the time for marking, making sure results are delivered on a certain date for university admissions and so on.

"There are a whole range of factors that the exam boards, Ofqual and the Department (for Education) are looking at, but we will form a decision very soon."

Pushed on whether an answer would come by October, Mr Gibb added: "It will be very soon because we know schools need to know the answer to this question and we have been working on it since mid-June."

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