Schools: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 25th October 2021.

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Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of allocating additional funding to schools to strengthen health and safety measures against infection from covid-19.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education)

Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, the government has balanced education and public health considerations, weighing the impact of these measures on teaching, educational attainment, the health and wellbeing of children, pupils, students and staff and the functioning of nurseries, schools and colleges, against the risks posed by COVID-19. The situation has now fundamentally changed due to the success of the vaccination programme.

The 2019 Spending Round committed to significant additional investment in schools of £2.6 billion in the 2020-21 financial year, £4.8 billion in 2021-22 and £7.1 billion in 2022-23, compared to 2019-20. At the same time, schools are benefitting from a substantial recovery package to tackle the impact of lost teaching time, including over £3 billion in additional support. Decisions on future funding will be made as part of this year’s Spending Review.

Schools have the flexibility to make their own decisions on how to prioritise their spending to invest in a range of resources that will best support their staff and pupils. Schools continue to be able to access existing support for financial issues, including a wide range of school resource management tools, and, in serious circumstances, additional funding or advances from local authorities for maintained schools, or the Education and Skills Funding Agency for academy trusts.

All schools have a range of measures in place to manage COVID-19 transmission day to day. This includes ventilation and hygiene measures for schools and testing for pupils in Year 7 and above.

Schools must continue to comply with health and safety law and put in place proportionate control measures, such as keeping occupied spaces well ventilated. Schools must regularly review, update and monitor their risk assessments, outlining what they would do if children or staff test positive and how they would operate if measures needed to be stepped back up to break chains of transmission.

The government is committed to ensuring the safety of all pupils, which is why CO2 monitors have begun to be provided to state-funded early years, schools and further education providers. This has been backed by £25 million in government funding.

A director of public health or a local health protection team may give schools and colleges advice reflecting the local situation. In areas where rates are high, this may include advice that local circumstances mean that the thresholds for extra action can be higher. If they judge that additional action should be taken, they might advise the school or college to take some, or all, of the measures described in the contingency framework guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-local-restrictions-in-education-and-childcare-settings/contingency-framework-education-and-childcare-settings#other-measures.

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