CHILDREN will face an “incredibly low risk” from Covid when they return to school on March 8, Gavin Williams reassured parents tonight.
The Education Secretary confirmed rules including mask wearing in classrooms and staggered starts and finishes to the day will be put in place.
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Education Secretary Gavin WilliamsonCredit: PA:Press Association
Speaking at a No 10 press conference he insisted “everything is strongly in favour of children going to school”.
He said: “The scientific advice does support a full return for schools on the 8th of March.
“The risk to children is incredibly low from going to school and from catching Covid.
“We are supporting this return with a robust testing regime that will be critical in breaking the chains of Covid infection.
“We’re now advising face coverings should be worn in secondary school classrooms as well as in further and higher education settings unless social distancing can be maintained.
“This is to help reduce transmission, the risk to children themselves is incredibly low.
“This is a temporary measure to support the safe return of schools and will be place until Easter when it’s reviewed.
“All the other safety measures that are already in place continue to be robust including bubble groups, staggered starts and staggered finishes, increasing ventilation and strict hygiene measures.
“The return to school is what we’ve been looking forward to. It’s time for children to be back in school learning and playing with their friends.
“Our whole nation has never before valued what schools teachers and education bring to all of our children more than it does today.
“We’ll all be so much willing for the successful return of all our children back to school.”
It comes after he unveiled plans to pump £700 million into providing extra tuition for the kids who have lost out most during lockdown.
The Education Secretary said earlier: “Our focus is very much in terms of welcoming children back on the 8th of March.
“It’s an incredibly important part of our unlocking the country but it also goes to confirm the national priority is our children and their education.
“We’ve always said schools would be the last to close and first to open and we’ve been absolutely true to our word.”
Today Mr Williamson refused to rule out extending the school day or cutting short the summer break to help disadvantaged kids catch up.
Under the Government’s plans older students will need to be tested three times over their first fortnight back, subject to parents’ permission.
He said: “He’ll be looking at how we can boost and support children in a whole range of different manners.
“But it’s not just about time in school it’s about supporting teachers in terms of the quality of teaching and how we can help them.”
And he said secondary schools will be allowed to stagger students’ return to the classroom to help them cope with the challenge.
Mr Williamson said: “Schools are able to bring year groups in from 8 March depending on their capacity as to how they’re best able to do that.
“They’ve got a week to bring all those pupils back, so they can be tested during that week.
“If schools think they have the capacity to get pupils through by 8 March of course they can have them all there.
“All primary schools will be coming back on 8 March as well.”