Partial closures 'will continue until we have a vaccine', says national schools commissioner

Schools having to fully and partially close and then reopen will “become a way of life” until a coronavirus vaccine is found, the national schools commissioner has said.

Opening, reopening, closing, partially closing will continue until we have a vaccine, become a way of life

Dominic Herrington issued the warning during an online conference for academy trust leaders today. He said that a rolling system of “opening, reopening, closing, partially closing” would “become a way of life”, and said the need to send bubbles or whole year groups home would become “more prevalent”.

However, the senior civil servant said he was “pretty clear” he didn’t want schools to close to the majority of pupils again, as they did in the spring.

Schools reopened more widely to pupils earlier this month following four months of partial closure between March and July.

However, although government figures show 99.9 per cent of schools are open, around 4 per cent are partially closed as a result of confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister, insisted schools would remain open despite a ramping up of restrictions on other sectors, following a spike in case numbers, that are expected to last for six months.

Speaking to academy leaders today, Herrington said the virus had “upended” school systems around the world.

“Opening, reopening, closing, partially closing will continue until we have a vaccine, become a way of life,” he said.

“And let’s hope – we’re pretty clear – we don’t want schools to close in the way that they had to before for the vast majority of pupils. Schools and colleges will stay open as long as possible. But the capacity of bubbles, of year groups to need to go home will become more prevalent. So that’s just a challenge that we all have to cope with.”