July 2020 Latest developments regarding coronavirus in the UK, plans schools and universities have in place for the new academic year

Sunday July 19th, 2020

Welcome to your July blog. Summer has arrived in the UK, with temperatures soaring above 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) and the sun blazing from blue skies one week – followed rapidly by blustery, grey, damp days! With summer holidays on the horizon, we look at options and activities for the break, plus the plans schools and universities have in place for the new academic year. We’ll also update you on the latest developments regarding coronavirus in the UK, in terms of guidance and the gradual easing of restrictions nationally.

The power of tutoring

Last month, the UK government announced a £1 billion package for schools to help pupils catch up on education missed during lockdown. Part of the funding is to establish a National Tutoring Programme, giving state schools access to subsidised tutoring. The remaining £650 million will be divided between all UK state schools for headteachers to spend as they see fit (with the above proviso). The general consensus is that much of the remainder may also be spent on tutoring – maybe small group sessions as well as one-to-ones – since it’s seen as by far the fastest and most effective way for students to catch up, stay on track or get ahead with their learning

I think few parents, teachers or even pupils would disagree that the one-to-one element of tutoring makes it a hugely beneficial way to learn. It means lessons can be formulated to match a student’s needs, abilities and learning preferences precisely and to great effect. Even the pace of the lesson can be geared to that individual student on that particular day. Tutoring gives the perfect opportunity for less confident, not-so-outgoing pupils to ask questions and discuss an idea in-depth, rather than debates being dictated by the more gregarious pupils in any given class.

It’s interesting that all these benefits of tutoring are reflected in the ethos of online learning that the UK’s independent schools (such as Harrow School Online, whose Head, Heather Rhodes, I introduced you to in last month’s blog) are embracing irrespective of Covid-19. Education in the post-pandemic world might actually return to a style of teaching and learning that pre-dates the ‘mass’ classroom approach, offering a more individualised solution.

It’s a very positive step that the UK government is making tutoring more accessible for all pupils. It’s a huge investment but one that will reap dividends for the nation’s young people.

The summer holidays are the perfect time to intersperse some subject-specific tutoring with more relaxing activities. Perhaps this summer more than ever, after a prolonged period of disrupted learning, it’s worth considering tuition. Get in touch for a no-obligation chat to see if we can help. We offer tutors who can teach online (or in person with appropriate social distancing measures in place) to all ages and academic qualifications.

A Levels: results and next steps


As I’m sure you’ll know, A Level results – in the absence of exams this year – will be ‘calculated grades’, which will look exactly the same as they have in any other year, but which are based on teachers’ predicted grades for each pupil. As well as a predicted grade, schools were asked to rank pupils within each grade band. To ensure results are standardised, exam boards will consider several variables, including historical outcomes for each school;  this cohort’s (and previous years’) GCSE grades; and  the expected national grade distribution for the subject.

Results day

A level results in England will be published on the original, planned date – Thursday 13th August 2020, from 8am. Most schools will publish information online so that students can log in and see their own results confidentially. You can also see your results in the ‘Track’ section of the UCAS website. It’s worth familiarising yourself with this section of the site before results day, if you haven’t already, so you know what you need to do should you need to take action.

It’s worth double checking at https://www.ucas.com/undergraduate/results-confirmation-and-clearing/sending-exam-results that your exam board is one of those listed that will send your results automatically to your university of choice. If it’s not listed, you’ll need to send on the results yourself.

Remember that neither UCAS nor the individual universities can speak to anyone else about your results unless you nominate someone and give your permission in advance.

What to do if your grades are lower than predicted

If you haven’t achieved the grades you needed, don’t panic! You might still be offered a place at either your first or insurance choice of university. Or, they may offer you an alternative option (called a ‘changed course offer’), which you’ll need to either accept or decline. There’s also the ‘Clearing’ process – where universities release all the remaining places available on any courses. UCAS have added a new feature this year: ‘Clearing Plus’ – which suggests courses that might be of interest based on what UCAS knows about your studies and previous course choices. Read more at https://www.ucas.com/undergraduate/results-confirmation-and-clearing/what-clearing

If your grades are better than predicted

If you do better than expected, you can also consider a different course or university using UCAS’ Adjustment service. It’s only open for a short window (between 13 August and 1 September) and there are other restrictions to using it – but it is a way to look at other options you might not have even dreamt were possible if your grades are much higher than you expected. Find out more at https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/results/ucas-adjustment-if-youve-done-better-expected



Autumn exams

As discussed previously, students will have chance to sit exams in the autumn of 2020 should they wish to. Dates for A Level exams will be between 5th and 23rd October; GCSEs from 2nd to 23rd November. There’s no obligation to sit an exam – and exam boards have confirmed that students can retain their highest grade (i.e. their calculated grade or their exam grade).

A new academic year

Schools have been scenario planning for September so they can be ready to welcome back pupils onto site – but also be prepared to adjust plans should guidance change. It’s good to see a general air of excitement about the new academic year, after all the uncertainty of the last six months. Schools are looking forward to welcoming all students back – boarders and day pupils in every year group – and they’re working hard to make sure students and staff stay safe with a focus on changing how they do things rather than what they do. Each school I work with remains committed to providing the best possible educational experience to every pupil, irrespective of the challenges caused by Covid-19.

Each school has slightly different plans, but they are all following current UK government guidance regarding social distancing, etc. Most have announced a quarantine period for international students. Start dates vary; most are based around the current 14-day quarantine guidance, but some schools are offering a more flexible, five-week long window for quarantine – whereas others have said they can’t accommodate quarantine beyond the start of term. Check with your school for full details; many are equally supportive of pupils and their families seeking alternative quarantine arrangements provided all self-isolation guidance is observed. As part of the track and trace programme, the UK government requires everyone arriving into the UK to complete a contact form within a 48-hour window of travel. You can find out more and complete the form at all https://www.gov.uk/provide-journey-contact-details-before-travel-uk. As much as the complex logistics allow, schools are being as flexible as possible, aware that, for example, international students may need to leave more suddenly or stay on longer than anticipated should the coronavirus situation change in the UK or at home.

Other mitigation includes staggered starts to terms for some schools; fewer Exeats (so as to reduce movement in and out of school amongst boarders); one-way systems around site to avoid ‘pinch points’ where many pupils would have congregated or funnelled through a narrow area in the past. Year group ‘bubbles’ will have dedicated rooms for lessons and tutorials; other areas – such as common rooms, staff rooms and conference facilities will be transformed into teaching areas to allow students to maintain social distance in class.

School’s out for summer – how will the current coronavirus situation in the UK impact the holiday period?

Lockdown restrictions are gradually easing in the UK (although local lockdowns have been enforced where new cases have spiked), with pubs and restaurants being given the go-ahead to re-open earlier this month. Outdoor playgrounds got the green light too – with other outdoor attractions (such as zoos) able to open their gates to visitors at the same time as non-essential shops could welcome back customers – around one month ago. Swimming pools are set to re-open on 25th July.

Indoor attractions, such as museums, may not open their doors just yet. But many, like The Museum of London, continue to host online events such as their popular Great Fire of London live stream. Find out more at https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/families/great-fire-london-live-stream -part 3 streams on Monday 20th July (if you missed parts 1 and 2 you can catch up online too!)

The Evening Standard curated this worldwide collection of the best ‘virtual’ museum and gallery tours when lockdown forced their doors to close. Take a look at https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/arts/best-virtual-international-museum-gallery-exhibitions-online-a4397816.html

Theatres have been given the go ahead to re-open – but not to stage live performances. Many have remained closed since that’s a slightly paradoxical situation for an industry that’s built around and thrives upon live performance. Some, undeterred, continue to stream live shows (played to empty theatres) online (see a selection here: https://www.playbill.com/article/schedule-of-upcoming-and-current-free-live-stream-broadcasts-com-322823) but many, including theatres in the world-famous West End of London, have confirmed they will remain closed until at least early August. However, you can still catch one of my favourite musicals ‘Six’ (about Henry VIII’s wives) at drive-in performances in cities across the UK during August and some of September. Find out more and book tickets at https://www.livenation.co.uk/artist/six-the-musical-tickets. Because as of 11th July, outdoor performances to socially distanced audiences were permitted in the UK. This also means that this summer’s outdoor opera season at Glyndebourne, Sussex can go ahead. As can plays at Cornwall’s Minack Theatre, an incredible open-air theatre that juts out into the sea not far from Land’s End. https://www.minack.com/

In the UK, facemasks have been mandatory on public transport for a month or more – and the government has said it will enforce the wearing of face masks or face coverings in shops from Friday 24th July. Many businesses that provide services (such as hairdressers, chiropractors, doctors, etc.) already ask that customers / patients wear face masks. The exact details of the guidance vary across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In England, the Prime Minister is urging people to continue practising social distancing, staying 2 metres apart whenever possible, but at least 1 metre apart if 2 metres isn’t feasible. For up-to-date guidance as it changes, see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do

In terms of travel and holidays, campsites, hotels and other venues have re-opened in the UK. If you plan to travel overseas, get up-to-date travel advice in relation to entering the UK at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-air-travel-guidance-for-passengers. Don’t forget you’ll need to complete a contact form at https://www.gov.uk/provide-journey-contact-details-before-travel-uk fewer than 48 hours before you travel to the UK.

The UK government has published a list of more than 50 countries from which travellers can arrive in the UK without the need for quarantine. If your country of residence is not listed, one possible way to avoid the need to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in the UK could be to take a fortnight’s holiday in one of the countries within the so-called ‘corridors’. You’d need to check current guidance in your home country – but it might be worth investigating. UK schools are well set up to manage the quarantine period for international students if necessary – but it does give you less flexibility about arrival times, etc.

You can see the full list of countries within the quarantine-free corridor, including any updates, here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors#updates-to-the-travel-corridor-list

That’s all for this issue – until next time, stay safe and enjoy your summer.