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School closures during initial lockdown period, and attendance in autumn 2020 term

Schools and other education settings across the UK were closed to most children and young people from the week beginning 23 March 2020.

The Governments of all four UK nations planned for a return to full-time education for the vast majority of pupils, after the school summer holidays.

The DfE has recently begun publishing more detailed attendance data for schools for the autumn 2020 term as well as some data about Covid-19 related absences.

Examinations and results

No public examinations took place in summer 2020. Students in England received calculated A Level grades, derived from a combination of teacher judgement and statistical adjustment. However, the grading process was highly controversial and Ministers announced on 17 August 2020 that A Level (and GCSE) pupils in England would either receive grades based on their unadjusted centre (teacher) assessment grade, or their adjusted grade – whichever was higher.

The Scottish Government had earlier made a similar decision, withdrawing standardised grades after their issue. Wales and Northern Ireland also took similar courses of action to England.

Exams in 2021

The Government’s intention for England is that GCSEs and A Levels will go ahead next year. The Scottish Government says that National 5 examinations (broadly, GCSE equivalent) will not go ahead in 2021, but Highers and Advanced Highers will – subject to review. 

Guidance on school re-opening following the summer holidays

All four UK nations have published guidance on social distancing, the use of personal protective equipment, and what to do where cases are suspected or identified in a school setting, for the autumn term.

Impact of 2020 school closures on children and young people’s education, development and wellbeing

Survey evidence indicates wide disparities in young people’s home learning experiences; there have been particular concerns about the impact of school closures on disadvantaged children, leading to the Department for Education (in England) announcing catch-up funding and a national tutoring programme.

Free school meals

For information and resources about the provision of free school meals during the Covid-19 pandemic please see Opposition Day Debate Free school meals, 20 October 2020.

This is a fast-moving issue and the briefing should be read as correct at the time of publication.


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