School term may be extended in summer to allow pupils to catch up - and school days made longer

Monday, 8th February 2021, 10:55 am
Updated Monday, 8th February 2021, 10:55 am
Schools won't be allowed to reopen until at least 8 March at the earliest (Photo: Getty Images)

Schools in England could be kept open for longer than usual this year, as the government considers extending the summer term to allow pupils time to catch up.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be considering keeping pupils in school for a further two weeks, with schools required to keep windows open to reduce the risk of Covid-19.

The missed holiday time would then be added to the autumn and winter holidays instead.

What have ministers said?

Health minister Edward Argar has said that the government is not ruling out extending the summer term for pupils, but said such plans are yet to be confirmed.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast about the proposal, he explained: “It’s quite right that Gavin (Williamson, the Education Secretary) is looking at a whole range of things to see how we can make sure the impact on them is minimised to the extent that’s possible.

“But it would be premature for me to comment on what may or may not be what he does announce.”

The proposal to extend the summer term comes following reports the government is also considering lengthening the school day to help children catch up from the disruption of the pandemic.

The Daily Telegraph has said that officials at the Department of Education (DfE) are considering multiple proposals to help children try and recover lost learning.

This includes seeking help from charities and volunteers to run out-of-hours classes and extra-curricular activities, meaning teachers may not be required to stay late.

DfE officials are reportedly examining the cost-effectiveness and evidence of adding additional classes at the start and end of each day.

The DfE has yet to comment on the proposals, but government spokesperson said: “We will invest a further £300 million in tutoring programmes, building on the existing £1 billion Covid Catch-Up Fund, but the Prime Minister has been clear that extended school closures have had a huge impact on pupils’ education, which will take more than a year to make up.

“The government will work with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure pupils have the chance to make up their lost education over the course of this parliament - and we have just appointed Sir Kevan Collins to the role of Education Recovery Commissioner, to specifically oversee this issue.”

When will schools reopen?

Boris Johnson has confirmed that school closures in England will remain in place until at least 8 March, after which it is hoped it will be safe to commence the reopening.

However, the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales have both announced that some primary schools year groups will be allowed to return by 22 February.

MPs will debate the plans to get pupils back into schools at the end of this month, with Jacob Rees-Mogg stating that proceedings on 25 February will include “a general debate on the proposal for a national education route map for schools and colleges in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

It comes amid mounting pressure on the government from some Conservative MPs to get children back to physical learning as soon as possible.

Gavin Williamson has maintained that schools and colleges will get at least two weeks’ notice before pupils return to the classroom in order to give pupils, parents and teachers time to prepare.