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Coverage of this briefing

This briefing paper looks at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schools and pupils. It largely focuses on England. It provides information on the spring 2021 school attendance restrictions (for most children), 8 March wider re-opening, attendance rates, and remote education. Secondary exams including GCSEs, A Levels and equivalents are covered in a separate briefing paper, Coronavirus: exams in 2021.

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

On Wednesday 24 February 2021, the Department for Education announced a new education recovery package for England. The package includes:

  • An expansion of existing programmes of small group and individual tutoring, and funding for early years language development.
  • A new ‘recovery premium’, worth £6,000 for the average primary school and £22,000 for the average secondary.
  • Funding for secondary schools to deliver summer schools.
  • Online resources for teachers and pupils, to be made available during the summer term and summer holidays

Timeline of recent announcements on school opening (England)

  • 30 December 2020: further delay announced to return to face-to-face teaching for most secondary pupils in England. Most primary pupils to return to school at start of term as planned, except for some areas of London and the South East.
  • 1 January 2021: Additional London boroughs were added to the primary closure (for most pupils) list.
  • 4 January 2021: Announcement that mainstream primary and secondary schools, and colleges, will move to remote learning for most pupils from the following day, and confirmation that it would not be “possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal”.
  • 27 January 2021: Prime Minister announces that schools won’t return (for most pupils in England) until 8 March 2021 at the earliest.
  • 22 February 2021: Announcement that all pupils in England can return to school from 8 March 2021.

Impact on education, development and wellbeing

Survey evidence indicates wide disparities in young people’s home learning experiences during school closures and periods of self-isolation; there have been particular concerns about the impacts on disadvantaged children. The DfE has appointed Sir Kevan Collins as Education Recovery Commissioner for England, and has announced a number of education catch-up schemes to help address learning loss.

School funding and additional costs relating to the pandemic

The Department for Education (DfE) has made some additional funding available for free school meals, exceptional cleaning costs, catch-up funding and tutoring, laptops and digital devices, and supply staff costs. However, concerns remain that some schools will struggle to meet pandemic-related costs.


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