Parents warned children could be at home for months as schools ‘shut until May’

Children could be learning from home until after Easter and schools may not reopen until May, education leaders have warned.

On January 4, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK was to enter its third national lockdown.

During the lockdown, schools and colleges have been told to only allow vulnerable children and young people plus the children of critical workers to attend.

All other school and college children and young people have been told they must learn remotely, with the Government initially saying this will last until at least the February half term.

But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is widely expected to confirm this week that this will not be the case and there will be no return to the classroom after the February half-term break as ministers had hoped.

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In a report in the Sunday Times, a Government source has claimed the nation will remain in the current homeschooling set-up "for the long haul" amid fears over new Covid variants.

The virus mutation is believed to be up to 70% more infectious and 30% more deadly than other strains.

The source told The Times: "We are going to start giving parents more information so they can start managing their expectations.

"Although we have not arrived at an exact date when we think schools will go back, it will not be after half-term."

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Unlike in the first lockdown, homeschooling in lockdown 3 must be a "direct replacement" for the learning which would have taken place had schools not been forced to close.

Under the lockdown rules, children in Key Stage 1: should receive three hours of remote education a day on average, Key Stage 2 pupils should have four hours a day and those studying in Key Stages 3 and 4 should have five hours a day.

And it looks like the current arrangements could remain in place for a while yet.

Kevin Courtney, co-general secretary of the National Education Union, said reopening schools after Easter seemed to be "optimistic", adding that children may only return to the classroom as "late as May".

A No 10 source said scientists are in favour of pushing back the return date as far as possible.

They added: "One thing is for sure — we will not risk coming out of this lockdown if there is any risk that we will be plunged into another."

For guidance on remote learning and support for mental health and wellbeing, visit gov.uk/coronavirus-remote-learning.

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