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Update on wider opening of education and early years settings

9 June 2020 (updated on 9 June 2020)

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The Education Secretary today made a statement to the House on the wider opening of education and early years settings.

The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson updated the House on the Government's plans for the wider re-opening of nurseries, schools and colleges, as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gavin Williamson: "Government's five tests are being met."

It has been over two and a half months since schools, higher education colleges and nurseries were asked to remain open only for vulnerable children and those of critical workers.

The Secretary told MPs that it is vital to get children back in school as soon as the scientific advice indicates that it is good to do so. Mr Williamson said “the Government's five tests are being met, and we're beginning to ease the lockdown restrictions across England.”

Pupils in Reception, Year one and Year six have been returning in smaller class sizes, alongside the children of critical workers and vulnerable children of all ages.

Speaking about the expectations put on schools preparing to welcome students he said:

“I know that schools need time to put in place these strict protective measures that we've asked for, and we continue to work with the sector.”

The Education Secretary assured the House that “SAGE's “R” estimate for the whole of the UK is below one.”

Speaking about the next step of the Government's phased approached, he said:

"From 15 June secondary schools and colleges will be able to provide face to face support for Years 10 and Years 12, and students aged 16 –19 in the first year of a two year study program who are due to take key exams next year."

Mr Williamson added that detailed guidance has been provided on the protective measures that schools and other settings need to take to reduce the risk of transmission. He added “this includes restricting class sizes, limiting mixing between groups and encouraging regular hand washing and frequent cleaning. This advice was developed in close consultation with Public Health England.”

He added: “We will be working to bring all children back to school in September.”

Rebecca Long Bailey: "there needs to be a national plan for education.”

Replying on behalf of the Opposition, Shadow Education Secretary, Rebecca Long Bailey began by stating her dismay at the handling of plans to re-open education settings.

She said:

“Children and young peoples' education and well-being will have been impacted cruelly by such a prolonged period away from school.”

The Shadow Secretary added a comment from the Children's Commissioner: “The risk I am most concerned about is that of a generation of children losing over six months of formal education, socialising with friends and structured routine. I'm also concerned about a deepening education disadvantage gap that could leave millions of children without education they need to progress in life.”

The Shadow Secretary told the House that “there needs to be a national plan for education” and asked the Education Secretary if he would commit to bringing together children's organisations, trade unions, parents associations, health and psychological experts, Ofqual, school leaders and head teachers to develop that plan?

She also asked if in the immediate term the Secretary will consider issuing guidance that all children of compulsory school age should have a one on one meeting with a teacher from their school, and parents if appropriate before the summer holidays start. Ms Long Bailey also asked if the Secretary would commit to increasing the resources available for summer scheme to help re-engage children socially and emotionally.

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