Further return to school update for governing boards

Dear NGA member,

As you will by now be aware, primary and secondary schools across England have closed their buildings to most pupils from today (5 January) following the announcement given by the Prime Minister on Monday night. As a result, only vulnerable children and children of critical workers will now be able to attend school or college until at least after the February half term. All other pupils and students will receive remote education.

We are sorry that we are not yet able to provide you with fuller information as it has not yet been clarified by the Department for Education (DfE) and we know many of you will already be busy supporting your executive leaders as they seek to respond to last night’s announcement. We wanted to take this opportunity to reassure all NGA members that we are engaging in discussions with the DfE and other key sector organisations, seeking the answers to the questions you and so many others are asking across the country.

NGA continues to represent the views and interests of our members in conversations with other education organisations and with ministers and civil servants. We have already gathered a significant amount of feedback from members and we are working with partner organisations and liaising directly with the DfE to establish responses to the concerns raised, in particular:

  • Clarification on the continuation of vocational exams including the safety, scientific rationale and logistical issues and capacity for going ahead with exams this month
  • What will be offered in place of the 2021 Summer A-level and GCSE exams
  • Rationale for continuing to keep nursery schools open and the impact across early years settings and the protective measures required including the need for published detailed guidance
  • Further clarification regarding the children of critical workers and vulnerable children and the extent of the list for eligible critical workers – you can read the guidance here
  • Free School Meals arrangements
  • The prioritisation of vaccines for school staff and leaders
  • Testing including whether secondary schools should continue to test staff and pupils remaining on site and the future approach to lateral flow testing and the role of clinical supervision
  • Clarification on the expectations placed on special schools and alternative provision including the need for support, existing care needs and the rationale behind the approach taken
  • Access to remote learning including the rollout of devices and access to online content and data.

We appreciate that this presents a list of issues to be addressed, rather than the answers that you will rightly be seeking. NGA will be updating our guidance as the government continues to update us and we will hopefully be in a position to provide answers to the above issues in this week’s newsletter. In the meantime, GOLD members can raise specific questions through the GOLDline and if any of you have feedback or requests for particular information then please do get in touch with covidfeedback@nga.org.uk.

NGA continues to seek to respond rapidly to the ongoing situation and we are here to assist you through the wide range of services and support that we offer. You can access NGA’s full range of COVID-19 resources in the Knowledge Centre.