I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. Lourdes Secondary School in Glasgow tragically lost two pupils this week, and I am sure that the whole House will join me in offering our condolences to their families, friends and the entire school community at Lourdes.
During the urgent question on school reopening last month, I asked the Secretary of State where, with a maximum of 15 pupils per class, the additional rooms and teachers would come from. He stuck his head in the sand and ignored my question and the concerns raised by the teaching profession and parents, so it is no surprise that we are back here, less than four weeks later, having found that the Government’s own social distancing rules make it impossible for primary schools in England to admit all pupils before the summer holidays. Why has it taken the Government so long to recognise what was blindingly obvious?
We now need a proper plan for education along the lines being developed by the Scottish Government. It should cover all possible scenarios and focus on blended learning, with greatly increased support for disadvantaged children. Is the Secretary of State planning, as Scotland has done, to use public buildings, such as libraries and council offices, to relieve pressure on classroom space? What consultation will take place with the teaching profession to ensure that the Government’s plans for reopening are realistic? Will he commit to publishing the modelling of the increased number of covid cases that could be seen in school-based staff as a result of reopening schools? Finally, will he ensure that any decisions taken are based on published scientific advice, with the agreement of local councils and school leaders, rather than simply forcing through what has been described as delivering the impossible?