Educational Institutions: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 19th May 2021.

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Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Tatton

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessments his Department made to inform decisions on reopening (a) secondary schools and (b) university campuses as covid-19 restrictions are eased.

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

At every stage since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, decisions have been informed by the scientific and medical evidence, including the risk of COVID-19 infection, transmission and illness, and the known risks to children and young people not attending school.

On 22 February the Department published its COVID-19 evidence summary which is available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/963639/DfE_Evidence_summary_COVID-19_-_children__young_people_and_education_settings.pdf.

The return of the remaining university students is not considered in isolation but as part of the Government’s overall roadmap. All areas included in the roadmap, as well as higher education, are informed by advice from scientific and medical experts, where data and evidence are considered regularly. This includes the Joint Biosecurity Centre, Public Health England, and the Chief Medical Officers.

The Department is working closely with scientists and The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) to understand and model various scenarios to inform plans that seek to enable us to re-open the country without putting unsustainable pressure on the NHS. We have also examined economic and social data to get a balanced understanding of the impacts of carefully easing restrictions. The Government has also carefully considered data on the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on ethnic minority communities, the vulnerable, the young, and low income groups.

SAGE also regularly publish papers and minutes following each SAGE meeting, including a collection of papers from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, on the re-opening of schools and the Independent Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours on return to campus for the spring terms and the risk of increased transmission from student migration. The list of papers published are available at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/scientific-evidence-supporting-the-government-response-to-coronavirus-covid-19.

A wealth of data, papers and evidence is being published at the same time as the roadmap, to ensure transparency on the information the Government has had available to it in reaching its decisions. This includes information from Public Health England on the Pfizer vaccinations effectiveness and reports with detailed findings from Sarscov2 Immunity & REinfection EvaluatioN (SIREN) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infections-Watch.

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