As we reported recently (see “Self isolate with persistent cough or a fever”), the Government and its scientific advisers have decided that it is not necessary to close schools at this stage of the fight against the coronavirus COVID-19.

This decision has come in for some criticism given the contrasting positions taken by many of the UK’s near neighbours including Ireland, France and Belgium.

However, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has told the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) that keeping schools open in England is the best course of action.

He pointed out that sending all pupils home would put a huge strain on key workers who would have to stay at home to care for their children.

While individual schools may be advised to shut by Public Health England (PHE) if necessary, Mr Williamson said, for the moment, the Government was standing by its decision.

He also addressed a growing worry in schools, that the expected peak in cases of people falling ill with the virus could coincide with exams due to begin in mid-May.

Mr Williamson said that the Government was doing everything possible to make sure that it is fair for students and was having regular discussions with Ofqual.

The exams body said: “We recognise that students, parents, schools and colleges will be concerned about the possible impact of coronavirus on the 2020 summer exam series. Our advice at this time is to continue to prepare for exams and other assessments as normal.”

It is still many weeks until exams start, Ofqual has pointed out as it promised to issue updated advice if necessary, giving schools and colleges as much notice as possible as it focuses on fairness to students and keeping disruption to a minimum.

One area where the Government does recommend immediate action is the cancellation of all overseas trips for children under 18 until further notice. See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/covid-19-travel-guidance-for-the-education-sector for the detailed advice.

Last reviewed 13 March 2020