Schools: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 3rd June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the physical and operational requirements for the safe return of all students to schools at the start of the autumn term; and what discussions they have had with (1) school authorities, and (2) school staff, (3) trade unions representing teachers and other staff, (4) local authorities,(5) representatives of academies and academy chains, and (6) representatives of independent schools, about those requirements.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The department’s approach to facilitating the safe return of all students at the start of the new 2020-21 academic year is underpinned by the government’s assessment of the latest scientific advice that indicates a need to take a phased approach to their return. This is why we have limited numbers of children returning before the summer break into nurseries and schools, with numbers only to increase as the science permits.

To help support nurseries and schools to plan and prepare for the return of their children, the department has recently published a range of detailed guidance for each type of setting on how to implement protective measures. This includes effective infection protection and control for direct and indirect transmission as well as a list of actions for settings to complete before reopening, in addition to guidance on actions for childcare and educational settings to prepare for wider opening. All of the department’s COVID-19 guidance for nurseries and schools, including that on implementing protective measures and preparing settings to reopen, can be found in one place on GOV.UK at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-schools-and-other-educational-settings.

We continue to keep this guidance under review so any operational issues arising in nurseries and schools are addressed, key lessons to be learnt are captured and acted on, and best practice is actively shared.

Leading up to and since the commencement of the wider opening of nurseries and schools on 1 June (the latter to children in Reception and, years 1 and 6), and in preparation for the return of years 10 and 12 students to secondary schools with effect from 15 June, the department’s Regional Education and Children’s Teams (REACTs) have been, and remain, in regular contact with local authorities (Directors of Children’s Services and/or their representatives) and academy trusts in England to discuss local plans and issues, and to offer them support.

The department also continues to engage with education unions, professional associations and those other national representative bodies who represent headteachers and college principals, teachers and lecturers, school and other education setting support staff, school and college governors and local authority chief officers.

Additionally, the Independent Schools Council and the Boarding Schools Association have been, and remain, actively involved in discussions with both Department for Education officials and with ministers on the opening up of their members’ schools to more students.

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