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National lockdown – announced 4 January 2021

The Government announced that, during lockdown, from Tuesday 5 January 2021 most children will learn remotely until February half term.

Colleges, primary (including Year R) and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and children of critical workers. Your child’s school will confirm arrangements with you as soon as they are able – please be patient as local schools put measures in place.

Early Years settings and special schools will remain open.

We advise all parents to check their usual channels of communication with their early years setting or school for up to date messages.

The Department for Education have advised:

” We have resisted closing schools until now, but in the face of the rapidly rising numbers of cases across the country and intense pressure on the NHS, we now need to use every lever at our disposal to reduce all contacts outside households wherever possible.

This decision does not suggest that schools and colleges are no longer safe places for young people. Instead, limiting attendance is about reducing the number of contacts that all of us have with people in other households.

We are responding to the intense pressure on the NHS, but that pressure is not driven by children. We are not seeing significant pressure from coronavirus (COVID-19) in paediatrics across the UK. The new variant appears to affect all ages but we have not seen any changes in the severity among any age groups, including children and young people.

The overwhelming majority of children and young people have no symptoms or very mild illness only. As cases in the community rise there will be a small increase in the number of children we see with coronavirus (COVID-19) who only rarely require admission to hospital.”


Remote learning

Schools have worked hard to make sure that everyone can learn from home while they are unable to attend school in person. Some have provided devices and wi-fi vouchers for families without internet access. Please speak to your school if you need any support accessing the remote learning system they have set up.

Education is critical for the well-being and life chances of all children and young people. We thank parents for supporting their children while they are learning remotely from home.

Here are some top tips to help your children to be ready to learn:

  • Help them find a suitable learning space at home
  • Start logging on and getting ready 5 minutes before lessons start
  • Support them to engage fully in their lessons
  • Acknowledge and praise their hard work
  • Encourage questions – show them how to virtually ‘raise their hand’
  • Take an interest in their progress and learning
  • Remind them to finish any tasks teachers set – these may contribute to Teacher Assessed Grades this summer
  • Discuss any feedback they get from teachers
  • Listen to them and help them to manage their feelings
  • Stay in touch with the school about their learning and wellbeing, feedback what’s going well and what could be better

This is a challenging time for everyone, so be patient with your child and with yourselves. Doing your best is all that anyone can ask!

Remote learning via your games console

If you are struggling to sign on to your remote learning using a laptop, did you know that your PlayStation or Xbox has a web browser that you can use?

Here’s how:

  • Open your internet browser on your console (Edge for Xbox, or WWW for PlayStation)
  • Navigate to your school’s remote learning page
  • Enter your username and password when asked
  • Use the browser as you would on a computer

Resources from the BBC:

The BBC is showing curriculum content on TV every weekday:

  • primary-school programming, including BBC Live Lessons and BBC Bitesize Daily, from 09:00 to 12:00 on CBBC
  • at least two hours of programming to support the GCSE curriculum on BBC Two
  • BBC Bitesize has lots of content divided into subject and age categories, with much new material added since March.

School places for critical workers

We are in a national lockdown. School places are available only for vulnerable children and for the children of parents carrying out critical work. This means that they are unavailable to supervise their children at home on any given day.
If you believe you are in this situation please talk to your school and they will discuss what capacity they have to offer your child a place.

Due to the need to restrict the size of groups, this may mean that schools are not always able to provide a school place to everyone who is technically eligible but they will always take the circumstances of each family into account.

Find more information for critical workers on the government website.


The government have said that they do not think it is possible for all exams in the summer to go ahead as planned and that they will be working with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements that will allow students to progress fairly.

Public exams and vocational assessments scheduled to take place in January will go ahead as planned.

Free school meals

As part of the announcement of the national lockdown on 4 January, the government advised that pupils who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals would receive food support whilst they are out of school due to the lockdown.

On 13 January, the government announced a national voucher scheme with Edenred that will be available to cover the period from the week commencing 18 January. Schools participating in the scheme will be able to start applying for vouchers in the week beginning 18 January and will then contact eligible families. Vouchers will therefore be received by families after 18 January and will be backdated to ensure families receive the full amount.

Portsmouth City Council will be funding provision of vouchers over the February half term holiday so there will be no break in the offer for families.

Schools not participating in the national voucher scheme will provide their own voucher or food parcels to eligible pupils who are at home.
Further guidance on free schools meals can be seen here.

Government guidance

The government is stressing the need to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives during lockdown. The new variant of the virus spreads quickly, so we can all play our part to protect ourselves and our families and others in Portsmouth. We thank parents and carers for continuing to follow the local and national guidelines and for encouraging their children to do so too.

The government has issued guidance on schools which which you can  view on the government website.


Supporting vulnerable children

Colleges, primary (including Year R) and secondary schools will remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. Your child’s school will contact you to discuss arrangements. The school can work with you to support your child in a way that meets their specific needs and it can address any worries or concerns you may have.

Clinically extremely vulnerable children

Children who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend school, college or university, and limit the time they spend outside the home. They should only leave the house for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential.

Your child’s school will work with you to help your child access their remote learning system.

If you are unsure if your child is clinically extremely vulnerable, please check with your GP, consultant or health professional.

View guidance for those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable.

Possible coronavirus symptoms

The Wessex Healthier Together website has useful information for parents if you are worried that your child has coronavirus or another illness and you are not sure what to do.

You must get a test if you or anyone in your household has – a high temperature (chest or back hot to touch), a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

Find out more about getting a test in Portsmouth.

Find out more information about how to self-isolate, what you can and can’t do and what local support is available in our protect Portsmouth self-isolation guide.

The latest NHS information and advice about coronavirus can also be found on the NHS website.

If your child is unwell with other symptoms or you are unsure if your child should be in school or early years setting, there is more information on our Coronavirus-related absence from school page.


Helpful information and support

Here are some other helpful sources of information and places you can find support:



Early Years - Frequently asked questions