COVID-19: Exams, homeschooling and free meals: What lockdown means for students | UK News

As the UK goes into a full lockdown, here is a breakdown of the situation with schools, colleges and universities across the four nations.


Schools and colleges: Primary schools, secondary schools and colleges will move to remote learning – except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children – from 5 January until at least February half-term, Boris Johnson said as he announced a national lockdown.

The prime minister admitted “this will mean it is not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal”.

And he said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson would work with the exams regulator, Ofqual, to put in place “alternative arrangements” for how grades will be awarded for the academic year 2020/21.

Ministers will also provide extra support to ensure that pupils entitled to free schools meals will continue to receive them while schools are closed.

Universities: University students who travelled home for Christmas will not be able to return to campus until mid-February.

They are expected to continue their studies remotely from their current residence, where possible.

In-person tuition will only continue for a small number of critical courses, such as medicine.

Nurseries and early years: Early years settings, such as nurseries, alternative provision and special schools will remain open and vulnerable children and children of critical workers can continue to use registered childcare, childminders and other childcare activities.


All schools and colleges will move to online learning until 18 January, with free school meals continuing to be provided for those eligible.

Primary and secondary schools will remain open for vulnerable children and those whose parents are key workers.

Special schools and pupil referral units should remain open “if possible”, the Welsh government said.

Scheduled exams and formal assessments can still go ahead and learners can travel to school or college to undertake them – although GCSE, AS and A-level exams have already been cancelled in Wales for summer 2021.

Universities in Wales are staggering their start times. Students should not return to universities for face-to-face learning until they are notified that they can do so.


The Christmas break has been extended until 11 January.

Primary and secondary schools will then remain closed until 1 February with pupils learning remotely instead, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

This includes nurseries, but does not apply to vulnerable children or those whose parents are key workers – as they can continue going to school when the Christmas holidays end.

The situation will be reviewed “mid-January”, the first minister said.

Northern Ireland

First Minister Arlene Foster said remote learning for school children should only be for a short period.

Primary pupils are to be taught remotely for the week from 4-8 January, while for secondary school Years 8 to 11, remote learning is due to last for the entire month.

Government help

Devices: The government has promised to provide one million more laptops to disadvantaged students to support them while they learn at home.

In December, the Department for Education (DfE) announced it had supplied 560,000, with the rest available from January.

Internet access: The DfE has partnered with some of the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to disadvantaged families, according to Ofcom’s 2020 Technology Tracker.

Some families struggled to pay their connection bills during the first lockdown, Ofcom has said, while nearly a quarter of what it calls “digitally excluded” households have no home internet access.

Nine percent only access the internet via a phone’s 3G, 4G or 5G mobile network, while nearly two-fifths have no home access to a desktop, laptop or tablet.

Tutoring: Almost 70,000 pupils are confirmed to have enrolled in the National Tutoring Programme, which has been supporting schools during the pandemic.

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