Gavin Williamson – 2020 Statement on Reopening Schools

Below is the text of the statement made by Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Defence, in the House of Commons on 2 June 2020.

This week, we have been able to take the first, cautious step towards getting children and young people back in education. In line with many other countries this is being done with a phased approach. As the Prime Minister confirmed on 28 May, the Government’s five tests are being met and all nations in the UK are beginning to ease the lockdown restrictions.

Based on all the evidence, in England this means that nurseries and other early years providers, including childminders, are now able to welcome back children of all ages. Primary schools are able to welcome back pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6, in smaller class sizes, alongside children of critical workers and vulnerable children of all ages who will continue to be able to attend.

We recognise that schools and nurseries need time to plan and to implement the strict protective measures we have asked them to put in place. We are continuing to work with the sector to ensure any schools experiencing difficulties are supported to welcome more children and young people back as soon as possible.

From 15 June, secondary schools and further education providers are being asked to provide face-to-face support for years 10 and 12, and 16-to-19 learners in the first year of a two-year study programme, who are due to take key exams next year. This support will supplement their remote education, which will continue to be their main method of education during this term. As the scientific evidence indicates numbers need to continue to be limited, we are asking that only a quarter of this cohort should attend at any one time to limit the risk of transmission. Children of critical workers and vulnerable children in all year groups will continue to be able to attend full time.

The Department for Education has published detailed guidance for settings on how to prepare.

We continue to follow the best scientific advice and believe that this cautious, phased return is the most sensible course of action to take. As the Prime Minister has set out, the Government will continue to monitor the rate of transmission carefully and will not hesitate to reintroduce restrictions on a local or regional basis if required.

I continue to be immensely grateful for the response of all those in working in education, childcare and children’s social care during this challenging time.