Petition Reclose schools and colleges due to increase in COVID-19 cases
Close down schools and colleges due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. We are seeing cases of students and teachers catching the virus since schools have reopened.
To protect teachers and pupils and their families.
Parliament debated this topic
This topic was debated on 7 December 2020
This response was given on 25 November 2020
Government’s priority is that all pupils remain in school and college full-time. For the vast majority of young people, the benefits of being in the classroom far outweigh the low risk from COVID-19.
Attending school and college is vital for children and young people’s education and for their wellbeing. Time out of school or college is detrimental for children’s and young people’s cognitive and academic development, particularly for disadvantaged children and young people. This impact can affect both current levels of learning and children’s and young people’s future ability to learn.
Schools and colleges have been open to all students since the start of the autumn term. On average, over 99% of schools are open each day and 99% of Further Education colleges have been open each week. Approximately 89% of pupils on roll were in attendance in state-funded schools as of 5 November.
The risk to children and young people themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) is very low and there are negative health impacts of being out of school or college. Senior clinicians, including the Chief Medical Officers of all four nations, still advise that school is the very best place for children and young people to be, and so they should continue to attend. We have taken a national decision to prioritise education during the current period of national restrictions in order to avoid any further reduction in face to face education for children and young people.
Schools and colleges have implemented a range of protective measures to minimise risk of transmission.
We published guidance to support schools (1*) and colleges (2*) to welcome back all children and young people from the start of the autumn term. Our guidance for schools and colleges sets out measures which provide a framework for school and college leaders to put in place proportionate protective measures for children, young people and staff, which also ensure that all students receive a high quality education and training that enables them to thrive and progress. This includes the public health advice schools and colleges must follow to minimise the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.
The measures set out in the department’s guidance to minimise the risk of transmission in schools and colleges has been endorsed by Public Health England. The measures in place include regular handwashing, promoting good respiratory hygiene, keeping groups separate and maintaining distance and minimising contact between individuals.
Schools and colleges must ensure they understand the NHS Test and Trace process. Anyone who displays symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can and should get a test. Essential workers, which includes anyone involved in education or childcare, have priority access to testing.
There is reassuring evidence from recent ONS data that school and college staff are not at higher risk than those working in other sectors. On 31 October the Prime Minister announced new national restrictions during the period of 5 November to 2 December to control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). In line with these restrictions, staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to work from home and not to go into work. Staff should talk to their employers about how they will be supported, including to work from home where possible, during the period of national restrictions.
More evidence has emerged that shows there is a very low risk of children and young people becoming very unwell from coronavirus (COVID-19), even for children and young people with existing health conditions. Most children and young people originally identified as clinically extremely vulnerable no longer need to follow original shielding advice. Children and young people who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, but who are not clinically extremely vulnerable themselves, should still attend education. Those children and young people whose doctors have confirmed they are still clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to attend education whilst the national restrictions are in place (3*).
If parents have concerns about their child or young person attending school or college because they consider they or members of their household may have particular risk factors, they should discuss these with their school or college.
We will continue to keep the evidence, particularly on the transmission rate and wider risks on health, under review so that we can continue to support schools to remain open and provide the education that children deserve.
Department for Education
Other parliamentary business
Ministerial statement on educational settings update
On Wednesday 6 January there was a Ministerial statement on educational settings, by the Secretary of State for Education, where he set out arrangements for teaching during school closures, and announced that GCSE, AS-Levels and A-Levels would not go ahead this summer.
You can watch the statement by Gavin Williamson MP, and his responses to questions on the topic here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/50819052-b299-4c6b-b135-036382b25b43?in=13:22:50&out=14:44:10
A transcript of the exchange is available here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-01-06
What is a Ministerial statement?
Ministerial statements are a way for Ministers to bring an important matter to the attention of the House, often at short notice.
Government Ministers may make oral statements to Parliament which usually address major incidents, government policies or actions.
Find out more about Ministerial statements here: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/statements/