Statement from Education Secretary on Education Settings update

18 March 2020

The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, has updated the House on educational settings in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Following public concerns about the possible impact of coronavirus, the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson ,has updated the House on educational settings.

    Gavin Williamson: "After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon, they will remain closed."

    Addressing the House, the Secretary of State told MPs that due to the current situation becoming increasingly challenging, the country is now at the stage for schools to close their gates.

    Mr Williamson stated:

    "After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon, they will remain closed until further notice. This will be for all children except to those of key workers and where children who are most vulnerable. The scientific advice shows that these settings are safe for this small number of children to continue attending"

    The Secretary of State explained to the House that this step was being taken to help to slow the spread of the virus. He told the House that examples of "key workers include NHS staff, police and delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with educational health and care plans." The Minister explained that looking after these children will enable schools to support the country through this incredibly and extremely challenging time.

    Speaking on free school meals, the Secretary of State said:

    "We will give schools the flexibility to provide meals or vouchers to children who are eligible for free school meals[...] As soon as possible we will put in place a national voucher system for every child who is eligible for free school meals.

    Angela Rayner: "The steps that have finally been taken today are welcome."

    Responding on behalf of the Opposition, the Shadow Secretary for Education, Angela Rayner ,said that: "The steps that have finally been taken today are welcome."

    She asked Mr Williamson if he could tell the House how the reduced service provided in schools will work, in particular the free school meals.

    The Member asked:

    "With millions of children in poverty and many families now facing even worse, can he guarantee that free school meals and will be made available to all those eligible, and will he take steps to extend that to Breakfast and over the school holidays too?"

    The Shadow Minister questioned the Secretary of State on what steps are being taken to support children with disabilities and underlying health conditions. Ms Rayner also asked for guidance for parents with underlying health conditions.

    The Shadow Minister also asked about what reassurances can be given to educational staff on casual contracts or insecure terms, and also plans for supply teachers.

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