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Thu, 21 January 2021

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Government to set out plans next week for 'full return of every single child' to school in September

Government to set out plans next week for 'full return of every single child' to school in September

Gavin Williamson will set out plans for a September return for all pupils (PA)

2 min read

Detailed plans for "a full return of every single child" to school in September will be set out by the government next week.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Commons on Monday that ministers "remain committed" to getting all children back into the classroom after the summer holidays.

"We've got nursery back, we've got reception back, we've got year one back, we've got year six back, we've got year 10 and we've got year 12," he told MPs.

"We've given schools extra flexibility to get more children in and we have made it clear that next week we will be outlining plans for a full return of every single child, in every year group back into school."

The frontbencher laid out the government's timetable in response to a question from shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, who asked if he would commit to setting up a taskforce with trade unions, teachers, parents and health experts to ensure the safety of youngsters returning to school.

"We will always listen to the whole sector, whether it is trade unions or those who are running the schools, or parents and children themselves," Mr Williamson added.

Labour's Ian Mearns asked what considerations had been made around "putting minds at rest" over the potential of furthering the spread of coronavirus if more children return, particularly among minority ethnic families, who may be more at risk if they contract the illness and those living in poverty.

Education minister Nick Gibb said schools had remained open throughout the pandemic "to all vulnerable children and children of critical workers" and that a full return in September would "of course be subject to the science".

"The scientific advice indicates that a phased return, that limits the number of children in educational settings and how much they mix with each other will help to reduce the risk of transmission," he added.

Boris Johnson announced his intention for a September return earlier this month, after the government was forced to row back from its initial pledge to allow pupils back to school before the summer holidays. 

It comes after ministers were forced to backtrack on plans have all primary pupils spend four weeks in school before the summer holidays.

The Prime Minister said the rate of coronavirus infection was “not yet quite low enough”, but that autumn was a realistic target “provided the progress we are making continues”.

Mr Johnson said that this approach was “consistent” with other countries in Europe and was part of his “roadmap” out of lockdown.

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