Schools: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 18th January 2021.

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Photo of Joy Morrissey Joy Morrissey Conservative, Beaconsfield

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether the primary focus of Government school policy is the interests of parents and pupils during the national lockdown.

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

The Department recognises that face to face education is best for children’s mental health and for their educational achievement. The Department has resisted restrictions on attendance at schools since the first lockdown but, in the face of the rapidly rising numbers of COVID-19 cases across the country and intense pressure on the NHS, we need to reduce all our social contacts wherever possible. Limiting attendance during the national lockdown will support the reduction of the overall number of social contacts in our communities.

During the period of national lockdown, schools will remain open to vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers only. If critical workers can work from home and look after their children at the same time, then they should do so. The Department expects schools to work with families to ensure all critical worker children are given access to a place, if this is required, to enable them to provide vital services. The Department encourages all vulnerable children to attend.

Schools should also continue to offer wraparound provision, such as breakfast and afterschool clubs, for those children eligible to attend school so that parents and carers who are critical workers can continue to work.

All primary schools, secondary schools and colleges in England are now expected to provide remote education for the majority of their pupils and students, with the exception of vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers, who can attend school or college in person. Where vulnerable children and young people and children of critical workers do not attend school, we expect schools to provide them with remote education.

The Department has updated the remote education guidance for schools and colleges to clarify and strengthen expectations while on site attendance is restricted, drawing on our evolving understanding of best practice in remote education. With most pupils now having to learn remotely and schools having made huge progress in developing their remote education provision, it is right that we increase the expectations on what pupils receive so that we mitigate the impact of children being out of school. The Department’s expectation for remote education provision has also been updated in this guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/remote-education-good-practice/remote-education-good-practice.

The Department knows this will be a challenging time for pupils and their families. On 8 January we published guidance, “What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges”, to provide parents with the latest information: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/951035/210108_Parents_Guidance_vF.pdf. The Department will continue to review the restrictions on schools, colleges and universities and will ensure that children and young people return to face-to-face education as soon as possible.

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