Covid-19: School Reopening

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:34 pm on 13th May 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education 12:34 pm, 13th May 2020

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions; I am glad that she recognises the importance of ensuring that children are back getting their education in schools at the earliest possible moment. When we have medical and scientific advice saying that it is the right time to start bringing schools back in a phased and controlled manner, it seems only the right thing to do, and only the responsible thing to do, for many of the reasons that she has highlighted. In terms of pulling our guidance together, we have worked closely with all the teaching unions and headteachers’ unions and with the sector. Every week we have had the opportunity to meet them, and I have ensured that my officials have made time to sit down with them and talk about their issues and concerns. This is what has informed and developed the guidance that we have shared with schools.

In terms of the hierarchy of controls that we have developed to ensure that the risk of transmission of coronavirus is minimised within schools, we understood that the advice we needed to seek was not within the Department for Education but within Public Health England, and we have also been working with the scientific and medical advisers, who have been informing what the Government do every step of the way. That is why, when we created the hierarchy of controls about creating safe bubbles for children, teachers and support staff to work in, it was informed by them.

So why are we bringing schools back? The reason that we are bringing schools back is that we know that children benefit from being educated by their brilliant teachers in front of them. We recognise that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are the ones who will suffer most if we do not bring schools back when we are able to do so. I am more than happy to share all the advice that we have received from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. SAGE regularly publishes its advice and when it is ready to do so, it will be sharing it again. We have also asked the scientific advisers to give briefings for the sector to ensure that it understands that the decisions that we are making to bring back children are based on the best interests of the children, including by ensuring that they do not miss out on something that is so precious: their education.