Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says reopening schools is based on 'best scientific advice'

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has addressed concerns by parents and teachers as the Government continues with plans to reopen schools next month.

Saturday, 16th May 2020, 5:50 pm

Speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing, Gavin Williamson says the Government’s approach to reopening school’s is based on the ‘best scientific advice’.

Children in reception, years 1 and 6 – as well as years 10 and 12 – will be able to go back to school in smaller class sizes as part of a phased return.

Mr Williamson, who addressed the importance of school for all children, says pupils who do not have support at home "will be the ones who fall furthest behind."

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson lead today's briefing. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

He added: "I know lots of you will be worried about sending your children to school. Every one of us wants the very best for our children and I know how stressful this time has been for families across the country.

"I want to reassure you that this approach is based on the best scientific advice, with children at the very heart of everything we do.

"Education is one of the most important and precious gifts that we can give any child."

It comes following calls from parents and teachers unions for assurances of safety – for both children and staff.

Mr Williamson said the return was in line with other European countries in terms of getting pupils back at schools, colleges and nurseries.

When asked about the Government's response to criticism from the British Medical Association that the number of cases was not low enough to return to school, Mr Williamson said: "We recognise how important schools are in terms of the important role that they play in every child's life.

"It is understandable then when you're given the advice that there is an opportunity to start opening schools in a very controlled, careful and phased way because of the enormous benefits that delivers to every single child - not just in terms of their education, but in terms of their emotional welfare, their physical welfare as well, we should be looking at doing that."

He also said there are currently no plans to start the new school year in early August but said the Government is looking at different initiatives that could be rolled out during the summer period.

One member of the public from Gateshead questioned if a regional approach, which would look at the R rates of local areas, should be considered when deciding when schools should begin to return.

Mr Williamson said the reopening of schools would be done in a ‘very cautions’ manner and passing the Government's five key tests is an important part of any decision to allow more children to return to school.

Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries says the evidence indicates children do not get as ill with Covid-19 as adults.

Recent "crude" data from the Office of National Statistics shows teachers have a lower death rate in comparison to other professions, though she added that the lockdown may have impacted this.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world.

But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.

Thank you.