School returns to ‘protect education as much as we can’

Gavin Williamson due to make statement on a back-to-school plan this afternoon, as health secretary signals there will be changes.
30th December 2020, 12:12pm
William Stewart

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School returns to ‘protect education as much as we can’

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/school-returns-protect-education-much-we-can
School Opening Plan Will ‘protect Education As Much As We Can’

Schools should finally have their start dates for next term revealed by Gavin Williamson this afternoon.

The education secretary is due to make a statement on school returns to Parliament sometime after 3.30pm.

And comments from health secretary Matt Hancock this morning seem to suggest there will be changes from the previous staggered term start dates announced by the Department for Education.

Mr Hancock said his cabinet colleague would unveil "proposals", signalling that Mr Williamson will not simply be restating what had already been said before Christmas.

The health secretary also seemed to suggest that the government would not be able to "protect education" as much as it had hoped, but only "as much as possible" as Covid became easier to transmit.


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Tes revealed yesterday that a revised plan for school returns had been agreed by ministers following a meeting on Monday involving the Department for Education, Department of Health, Cabinet Office and Downing Street.

But it had yet to be finally approved by Number 10.

New school opening plan

Under the new plan, Year 11 and Year 13 exam students would not return to school from Monday 4 January as had been intended but instead would receive remote education for at least a week.

Next week would see secondaries open only to vulnerable students or children of key workers, giving schools more room to set up mass testing.  

The following week beginning 11 January would see testing start. Year 11 and 13 students would be given priority for the tests that would then allow them to start returning to school that week.

All secondary students would be due back in schools for lessons from the week of 18 January, and primary schools would open from 4 January as normal.

The prime minister was set to chair a key meeting today, looking at delaying the reopening of secondary schools, according to the Daily Telegraph.

'We are going to protect education as much as we can'

This morning, asked about the return of school, Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The education secretary will be setting out his proposals later today. Clearly, we want to protect education as much as possible.

"But the new variant does make it much easier for this disease to transmit. So we are going to protect education as much as we can."

London mayor Sadiq Khan said: "With the situation in our hospitals at critical levels, ministers must take action to reduce the spread of the virus and delay the reopening of secondary schools for in-person learning for most children until later in January, with the exception of vulnerable children and the children of key workers."

The prime minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing yesterday: "We're still planning for a staggered opening of schools and we are working to ensure testing is in place.

"As we have said throughout the pandemic, we obviously keep all measures under constant review."

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