‘Phased’ reopening of schools will see pupils return at different times

Home UK ‘Phased’ reopening of schools will see pupils return at different times
‘Phased’ reopening of schools will see pupils return at different times

Schoolchildren in England will not all return to lessons at the same time, the education secretary has confirmed, in a strong hint that many will not be back until the autumn.

Gavin Williamson has told a committee of MPs that he could not give a date for schools in England to begin reopening, but that it would have to be "phased".

He revealed that he had asked the government's scientific advisory group (SAGE) to report on which children should return first – taking into account the effect of coronavirus on children, and whether black and ethnic minority school staff may be at higher risk.

Image: Gavin Williamson was asked if poorer students would be given extra help

Mr Williamson said: "The decision to return schools in a phased manner will be made right across government in the best interests of the schools and the teachers, making sure all considerations are taken on board.

"We are looking at many countries across the globe which are some weeks ahead of us – such as Germany and Denmark."

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He promised headteachers "plenty of notice".

The education secretary, who was challenged by MPs on whether he would provide a "catch-up premium" to fund one-on-one tuition for the poorest pupils when they return to school, said he was considering all options, but could not announce further policies yet.

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Committee chair, the Conservative MP Robert Halfon, put it to the education secretary that the widening attainment gap for the vulnerable; significant safeguarding issues and the "digital divide" affecting children who do not have a computer at home would fuel "a cascade of mounting social injustice which could last a generation".

Mr Williamson said a range of policies was being considered to help all schoolchildren "who will suffer from missing out on a period of their education", but with additional support targeted to the most disadvantaged.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson leads to government's daily coronavirus briefing
Minister 'can't put date on schools opening'

A scheme to provide 200,000 free laptops and wifi connections to some children – those in care, with a social worker, and some disadvantaged children in year 10 – will not start to deliver those laptops until late May, with most sent out in June, Mr Williamson said, suggesting many pupils will still be at home during the summer term.

A source at the education department said the laptop delivery scheme was not linked to the reopening of schools, as the children would be able to keep them.

The government has consistently refused to say when schools may start to re-open, but sources say the earliest date being discussed is the beginning of June.

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Earlier on Wednesday, more than 50 MPs and peers wrote to the education secretary, warning that urgent action is needed to prevent the Read More – Source

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