Schools: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 7th December 2020.

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Photo of Darren Henry Darren Henry Conservative, Broxtowe

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment his Department has made of the extent to which schools who have had students physically attending have been covid-secure during the covid-19 outbreak.

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

It continues to be the Department’s aim that all pupils, in all year groups, remain in school full time. Returning to school full time has been vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing. The risk to children themselves of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 is low and there are negative health impacts of being out of school. Senior clinicians, including the Chief Medical Officers of all four nations, still advise that school is the very best place for children to be.

The leaders and staff of nurseries, schools and colleges have been doing an extraordinary job to remain open, keep settings safe and provide education.

The Department published guidance to support schools to welcome back all children from the start of the autumn term. This guidance can be viewed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

Schools have implemented a range of protective measures to minimise risk of transmission. The measures set out in the Department’s guidance have been endorsed by Public Health England. These include regular handwashing, promoting good respiratory hygiene, keeping groups separate and maintaining distance and minimising contact between individuals. This can be achieved through keeping groups separate and through maintaining the distance between individuals.

Schools must comply with health and safety law and should continue to undertake risk assessments and implement the system of controls set out in this guidance.

Any concerns in respect of the protective measures in place should be raised initially with the school. If that does not resolve the issue, the concern can be raised with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). From the start of this term, the HSE has also carried out spot checks, via telephone, of schools to evaluate their understanding and awareness of the relevant guidance. Where calls raise concerns about a school’s approach, it will be referred for a further intervention which may include a visit to the school.

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