Starting tomorrow (19 Mar), schools and colleges across the United Kingdom will be closed in the government’s bid to clamp down on the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Gavin Williamson, the UK’s education secretary, announced the impending closure in the House of Commons on Wed.
“The spike of the virus is happening at a faster pace than anticipated, and it is right to consider the right measures to arrest this increase and to relieve this pressure on the health system.
“I want to provide parents, students and staff with the certainty they need,” said Williamson.
Schools, colleges and nurseries will “remain closed until further notice” except to children of “key workers and children who are most vulnerable”, he added.
The exemption will also apply to students with education, health and care plans in place. Meals and vouchers would be provided for children eligible for them, Williamson said.
Public examinations such as the A-Levels and the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) will not be held this year, he added.
“I can confirm that we will not go ahead with assessments or exams, and that we will not be publishing performance tables for this academic year. We will work with the sector to ensure children get the qualifications that they need,” said Williamson.
The UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said that the decision to close down schools across the country was not premised on the idea that “schools are dangerous places for children”, but because it is crucial to put “some brakes on the system of transmission” of COVID-19 in the UK and to manage the load of the National Health Service’s (NHS) critical care.
Hours prior to the announcement regarding the closure of schools in England, it was announced in Scotland and Wales that schools will be closed from the end of this week.
The closure of schools in Scotland and Wales may extend until Sep, according to the earlier announcements.