Covid-19: Educational Settings

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:22 pm on 6th January 2021.

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Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education 1:22 pm, 6th January 2021

May I say what a delight it is to have Kate Green as shadow Secretary of State? At least she seems to be enthusiastic about having children in schools, colleges and other settings, unlike the previous shadow Secretary of State, Rebecca Long Bailey.

At every stage—I think the hon. Lady understands this—we have put the safety and security of children and the workforce at the very heart of what we do. As the chief medical officers not just of England, but of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have said, the best place for children is in school, but we have had to take unprecedented action as a result of the advice from the chief medical officer for England that the nation had to move to covid alert level 5. When the decision was taken on Monday to move to covid alert level 5, it was right that additional actions were taken, as reluctant as I was to see us in that position.

I think it is a little unfair of the hon. Lady to imply that the safety and security of staff and children are not at the heart of all our actions. They are at the heart of all our actions, but we know that children benefit from being in school and having the opportunity to sit in front of their teacher in the classroom. That is why Conservative Members have always been so enthusiastic for schools to have children in. I hope that she will eventually become a convert to that idea, as her successor has done.