Boris Johnson will not yet rule out a potential shake-up of the school year calendar as part of a bid to help the country’s students catch up
The Prime Minister will not yet rule out a potential shake-up of the school year calendar as part of a “flat out” bid to help the country’s students catch up from crucial missed classroom time.
On Monday, Boris Johnson said that the UK government’s “single biggest priority” currently is to overcome the loss of education suffered by children of the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the week of the 22nd of February, Prime Minister Johnson is due to unveil his new roadmap for lifting England’s current nation-wide coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
It has recently been reported that among these new proposals under consideration by ministers, is a change to the nation’s school calendar.
According to The Sunday Times newspaper, one idea would be for schools within England to stay open for a further two weeks during the summer, when doors and windows can be left open in order to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
This comes after the Prime Minister has now said that he hopes it will be safe to reopen schools in England from the 8th of March, as he told MPs that he intends to set out a plan for easing lockdown restrictions in the week beginning on the 22nd of February.
The holidays in the autumn half-term and at Christmas would then subsequently be extended by a week each, the newspaper has said.
Asked on Monday whether or not school terms could potentially be extended into the summer holidays, the Prime Minister declined to rule out such a move by the government.
“In the week of the 22nd of February we will be setting out much more about what we’re going to do to help pupils catch up, to help kids catch up for the learning that they’ve lost,” he said.
“As I said last week, this is the single biggest priority now for the government.
“We can do things at great pace to try and remedy the gaps in provision for healthcare, the loss of healthcare that people have suffered, we can speed up court cases.
“But we’ve got to work flat out now as a country, as a society, to remedy the loss of learning that kids have had.”
The Prime Minister has highlighted how the British government had already committed to a £1bn programme that would help children in the UK catch up from the lost learning time.
And he added that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson would “also be setting out in more detail, exactly what we want to do to help kids catch up and bounce back from this pandemic, because it’s going to take a while to do that.”
The chair of the House of Commons education committee, Tory MP Robert Halfon, has supported a change to the school calendar.
“We have to reform the school year,” he told The Sunday Times.
“There has to be change; things cannot carry on the way they did pre-COVID. From my discussions with Number 10, everything is up for debate.”
This comes after more COVID-19 “mutations of concern” have been found in Bristol and Liverpool, the health secretary has announced. Matt Hancock said 11 cases were identified in Bristol and 32 in Liverpool, so the government will extend the door-to-door testing currently underway in eight postcodes where the South African COVID-19 variant has been spread by community transmission.
The general secretary of the ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders), Geoff Barton, said: “It’s nice to think about doing things differently, and this is the moment to rethink them.”
“But anyone trying to force that through this summer will find people are just craving getting back to normal.”
“Parents will want to meet grandparents and people will want a holiday. I think this is a medium-term solution.”