Covid-19: School Reopening

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

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

Of course. The hon. Lady points out the importance of working with the sector, and that is what we will do at every step of the way, and that is what we have been doing. We recognise the importance of supporting the sector to make sure that, as children return to schools in a controlled and phased manner, we offer schools the maximum amount of support, recognise that every school is individual and unique in how we support them, and give them elements of flexibility so that they can make the transition from just providing an education setting for vulnerable children and children of critical workers. Expanding that in the limited way that we are proposing will require some elements of flexibility; schools and the sector will need that, and we will work with them to achieve it.

I have always been clear that we will give the sector as much notice as possible, and we have said that, if we are allowed, as seems likely, we would like to see schools opening from 1 June, giving them as much forward notice as possible in order for them to get ready. We think that is a responsible and sensible approach to a phased return. I slightly fear that if we were to ask the hon. Lady to pin down the date it would end up being about what would be the year rather than what would be the actual start date. But we do want to work with her; we want to work with the whole sector to make sure that this is a phased, sensible and controlled return to schools, because those who suffer most from schools not being open are the children who are so desperate to attend.