Schools reopening: what kind of support should you expect now that schools have reopened to some students?

students working together in classroom

Year 10s and Year 12s were allowed back in school for some face-to-face time with teachers from 15 June – here’s what you need to know if you’re feeling a bit confused about what you’re supposed to be doing now

From 15 June, students in Year 10 and Year 12 were allowed to go back to school for the first time since March to get some face-to-face support from their teachers.

If the idea of face-to-face support feels a bit vague and has left you confused about how much work you’re meant to be doing by yourself at home and what you should be expecting from your school – no matter what year you’re in – you’re definitely not alone.

We’ve rounded up all the latest guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) to help give you an idea of how much support you should expect from your school now that they’re beginning to reopen to some students.

Are Year 10s and Year 12s the only year groups that can go back into school?

Year 10s and Year 12s have been prioritised for face-to-face support because they will be taking GCSE or A-level exams next year and the DfE thinks that they are “most at risk of falling behind due to time out of school or college”.

However, in guidance released on 15 June, the DfE says that schools can also invite students from other year groups to come in for a face-to-face meeting, if they have the space to do this without breaking social distancing guidelines.

“We know that secondary schools are keen to invite pupils in other year groups in for a face-to-face meeting before the end of term, where it would be beneficial,” the DfE guidance says.

“As long as this happens in line with this and wider protective measures guidance, and guidance on the numbers of pupils permitted on site at any one time, we would encourage this where possible.

“This time can be used to check in on pupils, and ensure they are supported before a return to school from September or moving into employment or the next stage of employment.”

More like this: lockdown learning: How other GCSE and A-level students are managing online study

student working in classroom

Are all schools opening for Year 10 and Year 12 students?

No. The government has asked schools to give these year groups some face-to-face support, but it’s ultimately up to the individual schools whether they decide to reopen or not.

Year 12 TSR member CletusPotter says “my college isn’t planning on reopening yet. It might not be until September.”

Do I have to go into school if I’m in Year 10 or Year 12?

No, attendance is optional. If you’re concerned about going back to school you won’t have to – like Year 12 TSR member kebabthegreat, who comments “I don’t think a lot of people in my year will even come in, for health and safety reasons. I am probably not going to come in for this reason as well”.

If I’m allowed to go back to school, will I still have to do remote learning as well?

Yes – in fact, the DfE emphasises that the bulk of your learning will still be done remotely, even if you’re able to go into school for some face-to-face meetings with teachers.  

There is a “clear expectation that remote education will continue to be the predominant form of education delivery for these year groups and that this should be of high quality,” the DfE guidance says.

More like this: how to keep up with your A-level and GCSE subjects while schools are closed

student working at laptop at home

What if I don’t have easy access to a laptop or the internet for remote learning?

In April, the DfE pledged to give free laptops and internet access to disadvantaged students in Year 10 who don’t have access to one already, as well as to students in all years who have social workers or are care leavers. These laptops will be given to local authorities to distribute, and as of 16 June 100,000 laptops have been delivered out of a total 200,000.

And on 16 June, the government announced that it will give 10,000 disadvantaged families in England vouchers for six months of free internet access. As with the laptops, these vouchers will be distributed by local authorities, but they will not be limited to particular year groups.

Will I be going into school every day?

No – only a quarter of Year 10 and Year 12 students will be allowed in school at any one time. The amount of contact time you’ll get will depend on your school, but many Year 10 and Year 12 TSR members are getting somewhere between about one or two days a week in school.

TSR member eloiserain says “my school has split the year group into quarters, with each going back for three mornings. We’ll see each subject teacher for one hour in groups of no more than eight,” and Snigdha02 shares that “my school have set up a system where you to school once a week in small groups.”

students working in classroom

Will I get in-person teaching for all of my subjects?

This is not something that the DfE has issued any guidance on, but a number of TSR members are reporting that their schools are only offering face-to-face support for certain subjects.

Foreverrocking, who’s in Year 10, shares that “my school is reopening but only for option subjects and not main subjects such as maths, English and science”.

Year 10 Snigdha02 says at their school, “each day is scheduled to be a different main subject. So one week it’s English, then maths and then science, but unfortunately we’re not seeing any of our teachers for any of our other subjects.”

More like this: what teachers expect students to be doing while school is cancelled

Will I have to do mock exams?

This is something that will vary from school to school.

The DfE says that “many schools” are holding off on formal assessments and instead taking a “lighter touch,” for example by asking students questions about what they’ve learned and then reporting back to their heads of department, to help spot if there are any obvious knowledge gaps that a lot of students share.

Some students are going to have to sit mocks though, such as TSR member Eloooot who says “my school is planning on doing our end-of-year exams in the time we have back at school”.

student raising their hand in the classroom

Does everyone in Year 10 and Year 12 have to be given the same amount of face-to-face support?

No. Schools can choose to give more support to students who they think might need it more, the DfE guidance says. This could include “disadvantaged pupils or pupils who have not been engaging in remote education,” according to the guidance.   

TSR member faizanarshad360 comments that “my school is only allowing students who have trouble doing online work to come in.”

More like this: what will school be like when Year 10s and Year 12s return on 15 June following the coronavirus lockdown?

Will I be able to go into school to study or use the facilities outside of meeting with my teachers?

No. You won’t be able to go into school unless you have permission – meaning that you’ll probably only be allowed in for any specific face-to-face time with your teachers, as opposed to being allowed to sit in the library to study, for example.

The DfE guidance states that “schools should ensure that no pupils are on the school grounds unless for agreed contact time or attendance.”

What if I’ve fallen so far behind with my studies in lockdown that I won’t be able to keep up in September?

Having been out of school for so long, you might be worried about falling behind – it’s all too easy to start imagining your classmates having daily Zoom meetings with your teachers and working eight-hour days while you struggle to even crack open a book.

In fact, a recent survey by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) found that lots of students are struggling with their schoolwork in lockdown, with 90% of the polled teachers saying their pupils have been doing less or much less work than they usually would at this time of year. The same research also found that four in 10 students are not in regular contact with their teachers.

The upshot of this is that schools and universities realise that these are unsettling times and that you won’t have had the same level of teaching as in a normal year, so they might need to do things a little differently than usual next year to get everyone up to speed.

The DfE has been regularly publishing case studies showing how schools are dealing with their closures, and many are actively figuring out where their students’ knowledge gaps are and then coming up with plans to fix them next year.

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