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.”