All schools will shut from Friday afternoon (March 20) until further notice, the government has announced today (March 18).
Education minister Gavin Williamson has just made the announcement in Parliament.
He said schools will close until further notice also they would remain open for the children of key workers – such as police, NHS staff, carers, supermarket delivery drivers – and vulnerable children, such as those with a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans – a legal document that describes a child’s special educational needs and the support they require.
Where schools are unable to look after these children, local authorities will work with the Department for Education’s regional teams to ensure an alternative option is available in the same area.
Vouchers for supermarkets or local shops or meals will be provided for all children who qualify for free school meals. A national voucher system is due to roll out. All schools will have their costs reimbursed.
To support nurseries at this time, the Chancellor has also decided that they will also now be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year. That means non-local authority providers of childcare will pay no business rates in 2020-21, from April 1.
A Levels and GCSEs have been cancelled. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Exams will not take place as planned in May and June. We will make sure pupils get the qualifications they need and deserve for their academic career.”
Matt Dunkley, Kent County Council’s Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education, said: “We have been in regular contact with schools since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak and we will continue to support them now the Government has announced the closure of all schools and nurseries to the majority of pupils. Head teachers will now communicate with parents and carers to let them know what arrangements are in place for their school and we will continue to update families via the county council and individual school websites.
“We are already liaising with the Kent Association of Headteachers, and our partner agencies, to explore ways that teachers who are fit to work can help to support vulnerable learners and the children of key workers during term time. We are also looking into the possibility of putting some school buildings into use during the school holidays. We will continue to develop these plans in response to the Government’s announcement. These discussions are in the very early stages and more information will be released as it becomes available. We anticipate that more detailed information, including around examinations, will be released by the Government in due course.
“We appreciate this is an uncertain time and that many families will be worried but we would like to reassure them that the measures have been introduced to protect all members of our community. We would ask all families to continue to monitor the latest guidance from Public Health England, the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care and to follow the basic hygiene and safety advice issued by these organisations as this is the most effective way to keep your loved ones safe.”
As of 9am on 18 March, 56,221 people have been tested in the UK, of which 53,595 were confirmed negative and 2,626 were confirmed positive. There have been 103 deaths.
There are 21 confirmed cases in Kent and four in Medway.