Schools: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 17th September 2020.

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Photo of Mary Foy Mary Foy Labour, City of Durham

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 19 June 2020 to Question 58792, what steps the Government has taken to prepare schools to transition to virtual teaching in the event of a (a) localised lockdown and (b) national lockdown due to the covid-19 outbreak in the 2020-21 academic year.

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

The Government has been clear that all pupils, in all year groups, should return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term and on 2 July we published guidance to help schools prepare for this, including advice on the responding to any infections. This includes how schools should manage confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst the school community and contain any outbreak. The guidance can be viewed here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

The 2 July guidance set out that every school should plan for the possibility of local restrictions and how they will ensure continuity of education in exceptional circumstances where there is some level of restriction applied to education or childcare in a local area. The Department of Health and Social Care has published an overview of the tiers of restriction for education and childcare, to be implemented only where absolutely necessary, in its contain framework. This can be viewed here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/containing-and-managing-local-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreaks/covid-19-contain-framework-a-guide-for-local-decision-makers.

We have published guidance on how schools can plan for tier 2 local restrictions due to the operational challenges that schools could experience. This can be viewed here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-schools-can-plan-for-tier-2-local-restrictions/how-schools-can-plan-for-tier-2-local-restrictions.

The Department has provided a range of resources to support schools in delivering remote education. This includes examples of teaching practice during coronavirus, as well as our work with sector-led initiatives such as Oak National Academy. This can be viewed here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/remote-education-practice-for-schools-during-coronavirus-covid-19.

We have made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy both for the summer term of the academic year 2019-20, and then for the 2020-21 academic year to provide video lessons for reception up to year 11 across a range of subjects. There is also specialist content for students with SEND covering their specific educational needs. Oak National Academy will remain a free optional resource for 2020-21.

The Department has already invested over £100 million to support remote education, including the delivery of over 220,000 laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children who would not otherwise have access. We are now supplementing this support by making an initial 150,000 additional devices available in the event face-to-face schooling is disrupted as a result of local COVID-19 restrictions.

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