Good news for UK schools and students!

It is probably fair to say that the whole country breathed a tentative sigh of relief on Monday when PM Boris Johnson set out the route out of lockdown for the UK. Admittedly we still face four months of restrictions but the overall tone and mood is one of cautious optimism. For young people who have been cooped up at home for months, forced to interact with the world through a screen and unable to see their friends, the news that schools will reopen to all ages from 8 March will for most have come as a great relief. The government’s decision to reopen schools as a first step on the road to ‘normality’ is based on scientific data which suggests that although the infection rate will inevitably rise, the risks are minimal.

Independent schools are delighted to be able to welcome children back into the classroom and allow them to take part in the full range of sports and activities that make up the fantastic all-round educational experience they are renowned for. There are of course some hurdles to be overcome and strict measures, such as obligatory face coverings, will be in place at least until the end of term. For international boarders who have not yet been able to return to school since Christmas, it may be difficult to make the necessary arrangements to come back before the start of the summer term. All will need to undergo a period of quarantine on return, although in most cases this can be arranged at their boarding school. For parents struggling to find a solution for this please get in touch as we may be able to help.

The other BIG educational news this week was the announcement that GCSE, AS , A-Level and most BTEC grades, will be decided by teachers, and not subject to alteration according to any external algorithm, a system that proved so damaging and disruptive for last year’s students. There are still question marks as to how teachers will be required to assess students, but it will be almost certainly be based on work covered and evidence drawn from a combination of coursework and internally set assessments.

Reactions from headteachers and students have been mixed, though most welcome the confidence and trust placed in the people who should know their pupils best. Naturally there are concerns about the risk of grade inflation, but results from schools will be compared with previous years and any glaring discrepancies will be investigated.

So, all in all, the mood is more positive and we can hopefully look forward to a summer term where students will be able to reconnect with their peers and teachers, and rediscover the joys of school life.