Schools reopening: All you need to know from lateral flow tests to face masks as first phase of lockdown lifts tomorrow

SCHOOLS will finally throw the doors open to all pupils tomorrow for the first time since January.

And a host of new measures will be in place to protect Brit schoolchildren, from lateral flow testing to face masks. Here's what to expect.

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Secondary school pupils and teachers are now asked to wear face coverings in classrooms and areas where it is not possible to socially distance.

That means older pupils are likely to be in masks for much of the day.

Official guidance from the Department for Education states that "no pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering".

But Schools Minister Nick Gibbs said masks are "highly recommended".

No requirement is in place for primary schools, although teachers have been advised to wear masks "where possible".

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson this morning backed the measure, and said children deserve credit for their efforts to keep friends and family safe.

"We recognise we are asking people to go above and beyond," he said.

"We hope this is temporary measure."

In an interview on Sky, he said teachers will be handed "clear guidance" on how to approach the issue.

"Wearing a mask is just one small element of all the protections in place, whether that's the distancing, bubbling, keeping to year groups or staggered home times Рall of these measures go towards reducing Covid," he said.

And he argued existing measures have already been successful before the addition of masks Рwith just 0.2 per cent of pupils testing positive for Covid between September and Christmas.


Students in England will be tested for Covid-19 three times in the first two weeks of school.

After that, they'll be given two tests each week to use at home.

These will be lateral flow tests, which involve taking a swab of the nose and throat.

The sample is then inserted into a tube of liquid and gives a result within 30 minutes.

Testing is voluntary and children will only be tested in school if a parent or carer has given consent.

The Government recommends, however, that anyone "going to a school or college premises," or anyone who shares a bubble or household with someone who is "should also get tested".

Pupils will not be stopped from returning to school if they do not agree to be tested, or are unable to take a test.

Staff or pupils who test positive should self-isolate.

If the test is done at home, they should also book a second test at a local test centre to confirm the result.

Last week, 32million tests were shipped out to families across the country.

Boris Johnson said: "We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far."

Government adviser Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said taking the tests will be "particularly important" in the coming weeks.

"We know lateral flow tests highlight the people who are most infectious and most likely to transmit the virus, and using these is way of finding asymptomatic people rapidly," she said.

She admitted the tests are "uncomfortable" – but says her 12-year-old has taken several without issue.


Gone are the days of copying a pal's work or sliding them a note, with kids now encouraged to sit 1m apart.

Perspex screens could shield pupils from the front of the class while desks could be separated with large screens at the side.

Some schools may expect pupils to face the front of the class, while teachers may limit their movement in the room.

Teachers are encouraged to ramp up mechanical ventilation units in classrooms where possible, with the aim of helping air circulate around the room.

The measure will keep Covid particles at bay and limit the spread of the bug.

Alternatively, schools are encouraged to keep windows open throughout the day to ensure any virus particles can be expelled outside.

Teachers have long been fixing up hygiene measures for kids, with hand sanitising stations now found across schools.

Members of staff have also been urged to ramp up hygiene control, ensuring classrooms are spick and span and kids are washing their hands more regularly.

Classroom bubbles and staggered start times are continuing to be encouraged across schools to help limit numbers mixing.

Pupils may start and complete their days within the same group of pals, making socialising difficult.


Experts believe the R rate will likely rise when kids are back in class.

But with the roll-out of the jabs programme, we could be heading towards a day when the rate doesn't need to bother us.

Dr Hopkins acknowledged cases could spike – but said schools shouldn't close again.

"We will watch and wait and look carefully," she said.

"That's why we're doing so much testing.

"It's to try and find those cases that may have asymptomatic infections, and so reduce the risk of transmissions in and around the school environment and keep the R rate at the lowest rate possible."

Asked if we should "pause children going back" if the rate rises above 1, she replied: "I don't think we should pause.

"There are three weeks before the Easter holiday.

"I think we will have time to look at the data carefully over that period, and then the data in the Easter holidays, to see how things are responding."

It's certainly not part of Boris Johnson's roadmap to close schools again.

He said lifting restrictions will be "cautious but irreversible".

And yesterday, he told the press: "The reopening of schools marks a truly national effort to beat this virus.

"It is because of the determination of every person in this country that we can start moving closer to a sense of normality ‚Äď and it is right that getting our young people back into the classroom is the first step."

Breakfast and after-school clubs can also reopen, and other children's activities including sport can restart where necessary to help parents to work.


Some of the measures are set to be longer-lasting.

Sanitation will likely be something children simply get used to over time.

However, the more drastic measures are likely to be in place for a much shorter time.

Education chiefs especially hope testing and masks in class will be short-lived.

Amanda Spielman, the chief executive of Ofsted, said Brit youngsters are "adaptable and flexible" –¬†but admits she hopes masks and testing will be gone from schools soon.

"We've been told the face mask guidance will be reviewed at Easter," she said.

"I love the idea of children being able to come back in the summer term able to see everybody fully."

Mr Williamson confirmed the measures are set to be "temporary" – with all new restrictions in schools reviewed again over Easter.


The PM announced an extra £400m of funding Рon top of the £300m pledged in January Рto help pupils make up the time.

Summer provision will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, such as incoming Year 7 pupils, while more one-to-one and small group tutoring schemes will be be offered.

And Mr Williamson has confirmed the Government is looking at slashing summer holidays, implementing a five-term year and even extending the school day.

The ideas are being considered by 'education recovery tsar' Sir Kevan Collins.

Sir Kevan will head up a team of experts who will draw up proposals on how to help children catch up.

In an interview with the BBC, Sir Kevan said: "I think we need to think about the extra hours not only for learning, but for children to be together, to play, to engage in competitive sport, for music, for drama because these are critical areas which have been missed in their development."

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