Children: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 22nd July 2020.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, for what reasons his Department's Guidance for full opening: schools, published on 2 July 2020, states that social distancing for the youngest children is not mandatory.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the advice that social distancing for the youngest children is not mandatory in his Department's Guidance for full opening: schools, published on 2 July 2020, whether any primary schools require young children to socially distance.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

The Government has been clear that our intention is for all children to return to school from September. On 2 July we published guidance to help schools prepare for this.

As part of this guidance, we are asking all headteachers to put measures in place to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in their school. This includes implementing a Public Health England endorsed system of controls that includes: ensuring that people who have symptoms do not attend school, robust hand and respiratory hygiene, enhanced cleaning arrangements, active engagement with NHS Test and Trace, and minimising contact and maintaining distance between individuals wherever possible.

Minimising contacts and mixing between people reduces transmission of COVID-19. This is important in all contexts, and schools must consider how to implement this. The overarching principle that schools have been asked to apply is reducing the number of contacts between children and staff. This can be achieved through keeping groups separate (in ‘bubbles’) and through maintaining distance between individuals. These are not alternative options and both measures will help, but the balance between them will change depending on children’s ability to distance, the lay out of the school and the feasibility of keeping distinct groups separate while offering a broad curriculum (especially at secondary).

At primary school, and in the younger years at secondary (key stage 3), schools may be able to implement smaller groups the size of a full class. If that can be achieved, it is recommended, as this will help to reduce the number of people who could be asked to isolate should someone in a group become ill with COVID-19. We recognise that younger children will not be able to maintain social distancing, and it is acceptable for them not to distance within their group but primary schools are expected to keep groups separate.

The Department's guidance on fully opening schools can be viewed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools#section-1-public-health-advice-to-minimise-coronavirus-covid-19-risks.

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