The day I visited St. Thomas the Apostle School in Peckham, South London, a new shutdown was announced for Britain’s capital. But the comprehensive—a public high-school, in American parlance—was open. It was freezing: Doors were propped open for ventilation. Pupils chattered in the playground while wearing face coverings emblazoned with the school logo. For all that, the experience felt surprisingly normal. In-person attendance has been at more than 90 percent for most of the term. Out front, some boys were playing a very serious game of soccer. Others messed around with basketballs.
St. Thomas is the sort of school that, in the United States, has largely offered hybrid or remote teaching. A study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education estimated that only 8 percent of U.S. urban school districts had returned to full in-person instruction in November. Outside the inner cities, only 22 percent of U.S. suburban school districts were running in-person schooling, and only 64 percent of rural districts.