Gavin Williamson promises ‘detailed’ plan to get all pupils back in September ‘by end of week’

2020 exams

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has promised to deliver a detailed plan “by the end of the week”, outlining how the government will get all pupils back to school in September.

Although he batted away questions about the details of the proposals, he admitted localised closures of schools or certain year groups was likely once schools fully reopen.

It’s not about one metre or two metres, it’s about a whole set of different controls and actions

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said there will be an extension of “bubbles” that will increase up to a full class size in primary.

But he added this was “more complex” within secondary schools, promising a “clear set of procedures and hierarchy of controls to make sure the risks are minimised”.

Schools Week reported last week how one of the leading considerations is for full year group bubbles at secondary, a plan backed as workable by leading academy trust heads.

But Williamson said today that people would have to wait “an extra few days” for full details that will be released “at the end of the week”.

When challenged on whether social distancing will be scrapped, Williamson said: “We’ve always said it’s actually the hierarchy of controls – the key elements of reducing the amount of transmission points and the actions to reduce the vectors of transmission that creates the safety for pupils and staff.

“It’s not about one metre or two metres, it’s about a whole set of different controls and actions that ensure schools can operate in a safe and secure environment.”

Speaking to the Today Programme, Williamson batted away questions on details of the plans, saying the government was consulting with headteachers, unions and representative bodies. But he committed to delivering a “detailed” plan this week.

When challenged over whether it was concerning the government is still consulting with the plan just a few days away, Williamson added: “We’re making sure we talk very broadly right across the spectrum.

“We’ve got a clear set of plans about the full return of every pupil back into school of every year group. We’ve already seen 1.5 million children already returning to school – far ahead of countries such as Italy or Spain.”

Sir Jeremy Farrar, a scientist on the Sage committee that advises government, has said Britain is on a “knife edge” – warning easing of restrictions may result in a spike of infections next month.

Asked if the government has a plan to test in schools, Williamson said: “We have very comprehensive plans in terms of both testing and tracing. We recognise there will be challenges that emerge.

“There will be local communities potentially impacted by a rise in infections and we recognise that schools and local communities will have to close in localised closure or year groups having to close if testing has indicated there is coronavirus within a school. This is what we’re going to have to be dealing with across the board.”




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  1. Terry Murray

    Nobody seems to have address the issue of how extra children admitted via successful school appeals will allow classes to remain at a manageable number. Appeals for all year groups have been going on throughout lockdown but the extra children gaining places by this route, particularly for year 7 places, will not be going to their new schools until the start of the new school year. while there is a cap on places in Infant Classes no such cap exists for those in Secondary or Junior Schools and it is up to the discretion of individual appeal panels how many new pupils they allow into an already full-year group at any one time. Appeals go on throughout the year and schools can be asked to admit extra children via the appeal process at any time. While all this can pose a challenge to schools in normal times in schools trying to create a COVID free environment for both staff and pupils it will it make life very difficult indeed as the number of pupils they are dealing with could suddenly rise without any warning. This is an issue I’ve not heard any one from any party talk about but it is one tha, in my view, needs careful consideration and some clear ideas for managing it put forward

  2. Janice woodfield

    I’m quite concerned as a grandparent, my grandchildren have been off school since March 20th, so by the time they go back in September, it will be Six months, and now they are expected to all return as though everything is normal. My one granddaughter suffers with anxiety and has had counselling at school, this is a concern, and usually they all get a chance to go into their next class before breaking up for the summer, this won’t happen, it’s a lot to expect these young individuals to deal with. My daughter home schools them every day, and has done a good job, maybe a phased return or the first few weeks return to their old class before moving up, and yet you will fine the parent if the children don’t return .