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COVID-19: When will schools reopen in the UK? Here’s what to expect

Written by on 16 February 2021

Scotland has announced a phased re-opening of schools – so here’s what is happening there and across the rest of the UK.


Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed there will be a staggered return of schools starting with children in years primary one to primary three going back from Monday 22 February.

Secondary school pupils who need to complete practical work towards achieving a qualification will also be allowed back from the same date – but must socially distance.

No other pupils will return before 15 March, the Scottish first minister added.

Ms Sturgeon cautioned that getting children back in education “may mean the rest of us living with some other restrictions for longer”, but added: “That is a trade-off we need to be willing to make.”

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Sturgeon confirms ‘phased’ school return


Boris Johnson has said the government hopes to start reopening English schools on 8 March – but this will be dependent on data showing case and infection rates dropping.

He said teachers and parents would be told when schools in England can reopen “as soon as we can”. The prime minister is scheduled to outline his “roadmap” out of lockdown to parliament on 22 February.

Primary and secondary schools have offered remote learning for most pupils since the beginning of January. The children of critical workers and vulnerable children have been able to actually attend school.

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One in six may not catch up on lost education

GCSE, AS and A level exams will not go ahead as planned in 2021. Teachers will estimate pupils’ grades instead.

Primary school SATs will not go ahead this year, nor will phonics or timetable testing.

Universities have been offering remote teaching.

When will lockdown be lifted?


Children aged three to seven (in the Foundation phase from nursery to year two) will return to school full time after half term – which for most state schools is 22 February.

Some older pupils on vocational courses will also be returning then.

No date has been given for most other children to return.

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Welsh schools to start phased return

The Welsh government says it will continue to work with trade unions and local authorities ahead of the next 21 day review – on 19 February – to consider, based on the latest scientific advice, whether there is a possibility of phasing in further age groups.

As with England, schools and colleges are currently open for children of key workers, vulnerable learners and those completing essential exams or assessments.

Special schools are open where possible.

The Welsh government has also cancelled GCSEs, AS and A-levels.

Grades will be determined by teachers, based on evidence such as mock exams and coursework.

Northern Ireland:

The Stormont Executive has said pre-school education settings, primary and post primary schools will be providing remote learning to pupils until at least 5 March 2021.

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PM ‘optimistic, but cautious’ on lockdown end

Vulnerable children and children of key workers can go to school and special schools can open.

All GCSE, AS and A2 exams, essential skills, BTECs and all other vocational exams due to take place in January, February, May and June 2021 are cancelled.

Direct payments will be made to families whose children are entitled to free school meals.