Countries all over the world are closing schools as part of their efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus.
So, what’s happening in the UK?
Why is my child’s school still open?
Currently, the government advises schools to stay open.
But government chief science adviser Sir Patrick Valance told lawmakers at a Tuesday afternoon hearing that school closings are still “on the table” as a measure that could be used to combat the virus.
The UK approach is that children are not as sensitive to the influences of coronaviruses as adults.
The government also fears that school closings could cause severe disruption.
Many parents – including much needed NHS staff – will have to take time off work to care for their children.
There is concern that if grandparents – a vulnerable group – are enlisted to help care for children, infected children can transmit the disease to them.
There is also concern that children at risk, such as children at risk of neglect, maybe at risk if schools are closed for an extended period.
Could my child’s school be closed?
The government has the authority to close schools.
On Monday, Secretary of Education Gavin Williamson met with experienced teachers about the challenges that schools are facing because of the coronavirus.
“The most urgent challenge immediately is the difficulty of keeping the schools open as more and more employees are forced to isolate themselves,” said the teachers.
“A number of schools are likely to be forced to close due to the limited number of staff available to educate, support and supervise the children.”
The exact procedures that schools must follow may vary across the UK.
Williamson said that keeping schools in England were “the best solution”.
In Northern Ireland, Prime Minister Arlen Foster has said that when schools are closed, it will last at least 16 weeks.
In Wales, school closings have not been ruled out, as Health Minister Vaughan Getting said it could “be effective later”.
In Scotland there is a closed number for deep cleaning – a decision also made by some schools across the UK.
But teachers’ unions said the uncertainty in the current situation was causing “unbearable pressure” on schools.
The National Union of Education calls for the closure of schools “at least for a certain time and at least in certain regions”.
The UK Schools Supervisory Authority has been authorized by the government to temporarily suspend all routine inspections of schools, higher education, early childhood and social service providers.
Could examinations be cancelled?
We do not know yet.
The current advice to all exam observers is that teachers and students should prepare for exams as usual.
All course deadlines and other assessments remain in place.
Boards are similar elsewhere in the UK, where students, parents and teachers are required to prepare for exams and follow updates.
“Our top priority is fairness to students this summer and reducing turbulence,” said Observer from England, Outcall.
What if someone at my child’s school got Coronavirus?
Schools are requested to ensure that students and staff wash their hands frequently. They are required to clean and disinfect items and surfaces that are regularly affected.
Schools and day nurseries are informed that anyone suffering from a persistent cough or fever should be brought home.
If students recover from school, they must be isolated while their parents wait to collect them. Ideally, this should be in a room behind a closed door, with an open window.
Although the advice is that trips abroad are cancelled, domestic trips can take place, as long as further risk assessments are carried out.
What if I want to keep my child off school?
The official guideline is that children should stay at home if they are well, to avoid spreading the infection to others.
Otherwise, the advice is that they go to school as usual.
Under the current rules, children can only be absent from school if they are too sick to enter or if the parents obtain prior permission from the school.
The situation is not yet clear for parents who decided to withdraw their children from school due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Parents have the right to teach their children at home – but if they are enrolled in a school, families can expect to contact the school if they do not attend.