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SAGE warns of October firebreak half term extension

The Government has drawn up plans for an October ‘firebreak’ Covid lockdown, should hospitalisations continue at their current level and threaten to overload the NHS. A member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has suggested that the UK is about to enter ‘an extended peak’ of infections and hospitalisations, which could force the Government to re-introduce restrictions over the school half term period at the end of next month.

It is understood that the Government’s contingency plan for a ‘firebreak’ lockdown could lead to an extension of the half term, from one week for most schools to two weeks from late October into early November. It is believed the closure of schools during the summer holidays has helped avoid a major rise in cases since the ending of restrictions since lockdown restrictions were lifted on July 19. Meanwhile, the return of schools in Scotland last month appears to have sparked a surge in infections.

With this in mind, Stewart Watts, VP EMEA at D2L offers the following comment: 

“The disruption to students’ learning over the last year and a half has been well documented. Despite the great progress made by many schools and institutions, some have experienced challenges with their online learning provision. Indeed, a recent report by the UK government looked into the efficacy of remote and online learning since the start of the pandemic, and how student attainment scores have been affected.

“While the UK government has issued its recovery roadmap – including its ‘Outcome Delivery Plan: 2021 to 2022’ for the Department of Education (DfE) – and lifted restrictions, the situation is still unclear and it is too early to say when we will eventually return to ‘normal’, whatever that may be. A potential extension to half term will have knock-on effects to students’ learning, so if institutions have learnt anything from past experiences, they must ensure there they have a reliable online learning environment in place to minimise disruption to students’ learning.

“With Sage urging extreme caution, some schools may still find themselves having to isolate classes, or particular year groups. Essentially, as the pandemic evolves, we could once again see a situation where some students are on site, and others are learning remotely. Any recovery plans must ensure that all students are accounted for, and the education sector should use all the data and tools at its disposal to achieve this. Teacher training also remains a priority, as staff need to be fully equipped and ready to use all the digital tools and data they have available, to minimise further disruption should circumstances change.” 

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