Closed petition Close schools in Tier 4 areas

Schools can be a breeding ground for the spread of coronavirus. Children are mingling at schools and returning to families who are potentially vulnerable, keeping rates high.

It's only been since schools opened that infection rates have been high in Kent, and keeping them open may keep it high.

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This Christmas I am apart from all of my family for the first time. My younger siblings have no idea why I won't be there, and it's heartbreaking. All I want to do is go home and see my family, and the sooner I can do that the better. Currently I see no way of this happening unless schools close for at least two weeks, but preferably more. Especially with this new strain of the virus, we need to be making the move to online schooling and actually keep people safe.

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Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 15 March 2021

Watch the petition 'Close schools in Tier 4 areas' being debated

Government responded

This response was given on 21 January 2021

The Government has asked schools and Further Education colleges to restrict attendance from 5 January 2020 for most pupils and students. Early years settings will remain open to all.

Read the response in full

Being at school or college is vital for children’s and young people’s education and for their wellbeing. However, in light of the rapid growth in rates across the country and intense pressure on the NHS, the Government has asked schools and Further Education (FE) colleges to restrict attendance from 5 January 2020 until at least February half term for most pupils and students. Early years settings will remain open to all.

On 7 January, the Department for Education (DfE) published updated guidance for schools:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_source=08720782-d5c2-423a-90bf-6450e8ad7640&utm_content=daily.

During this period of national lockdown, schools, alternative provision (AP), special schools, colleges and wraparound childcare and other out-of-school activities for children should allow only vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers to attend (recognising that the characteristics of the cohorts in special schools and alternative provision will mean these settings continue to offer face to face provision for all pupils, where appropriate). All other pupils and students should not attend and should receive remote education until February half term.

Early years provision should continue to remain open and should continue to allow all children to attend full time or their usual timetable hours. Only vulnerable children and children of critical workers should attend on-site reception classes. This is the default position for all areas irrespective of national lockdown restrictions.

Early years settings have been open to all children since 1 June 2020 and there is no evidence that the early years sector has contributed to a significant rise in virus cases within the community. Early modelling evidence from SAGE showed that early years provision had a smaller relative impact on transmission rate when modelled with both primary schools and secondary schools.

We have asked schools to limit attendance during the lockdown not because they are unsafe, but because the government is taking every possible measure to reduce overall social contacts, bring down cases in the community and protect the NHS.

We have resisted restrictions on attendance at schools since the first lockdown and keeping education open has been a national priority. In the face of the rapidly rising numbers of cases across the country and intense pressure on the NHS, we now need to use every lever at our disposal to reduce all our social contacts wherever possible.

For vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers, who should still attend school or college, as they did in March to July, and their teachers, the system of protective measures being implemented means that any risks are well managed and controlled.

We are responding to the intense pressure on the NHS, but that pressure is not driven by children. We are not seeing significant pressure from coronavirus (COVID-19) in paediatrics across the UK. The new variant appears to affect all ages but we have not seen any changes in the severity of the disease among any age groups, including children and young people. The majority of children and young people have no symptoms or very mild illness only. As cases in the community rise there will be an increase in the number of children we see with coronavirus (COVID-19), but only very rarely will they require admission to hospital.

Once the national lockdown is lifted, if required, the education contingency framework can once again be applied where and when necessary. The framework sets out how restrictions on education would work in the rare circumstances they are needed.

Any restrictions on education would only be as a last resort and may only be initiated following a ministerial decision.

We know that receiving face-to-face education is best for children’s mental health and for their educational achievement. We will continue to review the restrictions on schools, colleges and universities and will ensure that children and young people return to face-to-face education as soon as possible.

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/

Petitions Committee schedules debate on the impact of Covid-19 on education

On Monday 15 March, MPs will debate the impact of Covid-19 on education, in response to several petitions including the petition you have signed.

Watch the debate (from 6.15pm, Mon 15 March): https://youtu.be/_Iz2Jk-KPHE
Read the debate transcript (available shortly after the conclusion of the debate): https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-03-15
Follow the Committee on Twitter and join the discussion using #Covid19EducationDebate: https://www.twitter.com/hocpetitions

The debate will be led by Petitions Committee member Tom Hunt MP. MPs from all parties can take part, and the Government will send a Minister to respond.

What are petitions debates?

Petitions debates are ‘general’ debates which allow MPs from all parties to discuss the important issues raised by one or more petitions, and put their concerns to Government Ministers.