Covid-19: School Reopenings

Education – in the House of Commons on 26th April 2021.

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Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

What assessment his Department has made of the progress made by schools on fully reopening as covid-19 lockdown restrictions have eased.

Photo of Holly Mumby-Croft Holly Mumby-Croft Conservative, Scunthorpe

What assessment his Department has made of the progress made by schools on fully reopening as covid-19 lockdown restrictions have eased.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

What assessment his Department has made of the progress made by schools on fully reopening as covid-19 lockdown restrictions have eased.

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

The return to school from 8 March has been very successful. Just before Easter, on 25 March, 99.8% of state-funded schools were open. From 15 April, pupil attendance in state-funded schools was at 94%. That is higher than at any point during the autumn term.

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

School funding in South Cambridgeshire has been a particular focus of mine and something that I have raised with the Department before. We have the sixth lowest funding in the country, with £400 per pupil per year less than the national average. The formula means that small village schools are particularly badly affected. Last week, I met one chair of governors of a primary school that has had to make a teacher and an assistant teacher redundant and has now had to merge the years. Will my right hon. Friend consider a change to the system to help small schools that have high fixed costs per capita but that are expected to meet the same standards as larger schools with comparatively higher funding?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

We all know the very important role that small schools play in our communities and villages right across the country. That is why we took the decision to increase the funding to support them from £26 million to £42 million in the latest settlement. That is on top of the fact that we are increasing spending on our schools right across the board, and, for this financial year, my hon. Friend’s schools will receive, on average, a 3.8% increase in their funding, which goes to show that we recognise the importance of fair funding right across the country.

Photo of Holly Mumby-Croft Holly Mumby-Croft Conservative, Scunthorpe

I thank the Secretary of State for the work that his Department has done with the Engineering University Technical College in Scunthorpe on its new and exciting health, sciences and social care course. Will he welcome this course and encourage young people in Scunthorpe to look at everything that is on offer, because colleges have not had their usual opportunity to speak to students and visit schools during this unusual year?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

I congratulate the Northern Lincolnshire University Technical College. UTCs do an amazing job right around the country, not least in my hon. Friend’s constituency. They can be truly transformative to young people’s life chances. I very much look forward to working with her to make sure that that message is put out there. It is also quite right to pay tribute to the amazing work of Lord Baker who has done so much to champion the cause of UTCs, making sure that they opened up opportunities for so many young people in all of our constituencies.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

An important part of my and my children’s education was visiting places such as our fantastic museums. What work is being undertaken to ensure that those visits can resume safely as our country comes out of lockdown?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

We all know that children gain so much from visiting museums and other great cultural institutions right around the country. I was delighted that the latest step out of lockdown taken by this country meant that children were able to go on non-residential visits around the country. Moving into step 3 will be another opportunity—for young people to be able to visit museums. It will be so important for them to have that experience. We look forward to working with schools and encouraging them to make such visits—not least, of course, in my hon. Friend’s part of world in Cornwall.