Read: Williamson’s open letter to parents over school reopenings


Education secretary Gavin Williamson has today issued an open letter to parents as part of the government’s drive to get pupils back to school.

In the letter, Williamson warns that parents who choose not to send their children back to school “could well put a huge dent in their future life chances”.


Here is the letter in full:

There are always a few nerves before the first day back at the start of a new school year. This year, understandably, there may well be some parents who have particular worries about their children returning to the classroom.

So first and foremost, I would urge you to keep in mind that all four of our country’s chief medical officers, including Chris Whitty, are unanimous in believing the health risk posed by Covid-19 to children is extremely low.

An extensive study by the British Medical Journal this week said that the risk of severe illness due to Covid for children was ‘vanishingly small’ and the chance of them being admitted to hospital because of the virus was ‘tiny’.

In fact, it is generally accepted that there is a far greater risk to children’s health and wellbeing if they don’t go to school. The chief medical officers said in their joint statement: ‘Very few, if any, children or teenagers will come to long-term harm from COVID-19 due solely to attending school. This has to be set against a certainty of long-term harm to many children and young people from not attending school.’

But more than that, I want to reassure you that huge lengths have been taken to prepare all our schools for this moment.

Over the past few weeks, the Schools Minister Nick Gibb and I have been visiting schools and seeing for ourselves some of the fantastically innovative ways they will be looking after children.

And I’d like to reassure you how these safeguards will help minimise the risk of infection:

  • Primary children will stay in groups to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
  • In the event of local restrictions being put in place, older children and staff will wear face coverings in communal areas where they can’t easily social distance.
  • Strict hygiene and cleaning protocols are in place and PPE is being distributed to every school to bolster their supplies for use in the unlikely event that a pupil develops Covid symptoms. A small number of home test kits are also being distributed to all schools for anyone who develops symptoms and is not easily able to get tested.
  • Local authorities have been given an extra £40 million to increase school transport to reduce pressure on public transport. But it would be far better if any pupils who can do so, walked or cycled to school.

Based on this, our priority now is to get all our children back. It really is the best place for them to be. Nothing can match being in a classroom with a real teacher to inspire them and their friends to share their discoveries.

Your school will have undoubtedly talked you through all the measures they are taking to keep children and teaching staff as safe as possible.  The National Association of Head Teachers has said that 97 per cent of schools plan to welcome all pupils full-time from the start of the autumn term and will be using all the recommended safety measures to do so.

For example, 96% of them have put in place extra cleaning regimes and 93% will be staggering lunch and breaktimes.

I know these past few months have been some of the most challenging that schools, parents and, most of all, children have faced. After all, we’ve been dealing with a previously unknown virus that caused a global pandemic. But I know you will want to join me in saying an enormous thank you to all our dedicated school staff for the incredible efforts they have made to keep children on track.

If a child is not in school, they stand to lose far more than just a few months of learning. It could well put a huge dent in their future life chances. Education is a birthright, so let’s make sure we get all children back – back to learning, back to playing and back to being kids again.


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  1. Lorraine Cross

    I really get the fact that children need the routine and structure of school…i am an ex teacher! I have also taken on the privilege of raising two youngsters who for different reasons cannot be raised by their parents.
    I am almost near retirement age. The reason for being an ex teacher is due to different health conditions which put me in the vulnerable group.

    Gavin Williamson, Boris Johnson and the “experts” keep going on about the low risk to children, their symptoms are mild or they are asymptomatic. What about the parents and carers, like me, who care for these children? If my children contract this and pass on to me, then I already know I have a very slim chance of survival. They have already lost their parents and been moved to my care. I think the damage to them both mentally and emotionally is far greater to lose me as well rather than losing a few more weeks at school.

    They will return to school (our area has been extremely lucky) BUT the schools will be informed from day 1 that should at any time cases rise in our area then I will pull them and face the consequences. My 2 have actually thrived during lockdown, both mentally and emotionally. They have completed work for me but also been allowed to be the children they need to be.
    I personally think schools should have a phased return. The majority of children have been off school since March and many will suffer separation anxiety (as will their parents), going back possibly one day a week for each year group the first half term (6 weeks) would help children adjust and also allow us to see the effect on the number of cases.
    I really do think children want and need to be in school but this needs to be managed correctly and safely. How can my eldest start high school in a year group bubble of 200 but we cant go to a friends wedding as its seen as an indoor social gathering and unsafe over a certain number but is a lot less than she will be mixing with at school!!

  2. Felicity Leslie

    In reading Gavin Williamson’s letter to parents today in his drive to get all children back into schools with HIS emphasis on a ” huge dent in their child’s future life chances “, ” the very low risk to children of COVID”, ” the best place for them to be”, “….with a real teacher to inspire them “, ” their friends to share their discoveries “, ” their birthright”, ” back to learning”, ” back to playing”, ” back to being kids again”.
    One needs to be realistic & truly honest and consider ALL of what he & certain others have done or not done for the very best for ALL children & whether they have given EVERY child their ” birth right” & done the best for their ” future life chances” etc ?
    Schools were closed to many NOT by teachers. Inadequate support & help was given to schools (& there still is too little too late) to counter the risks for staff who were still in schools & children. There was NO real help for certain children & NO help to encourage certain parents to send their child in. The promised laptops were NOT provided to many who needed them & were ENTITLED to them.
    He & others including the Children’s Commissioner did NOT support the ‘vulnerable’ children properly to date and have NOT since the criticisms of the P.I.S.A report ( Dec 2019), as well as helping provide ALL children with an education that is not ” too narrow” not ” too test orientated”, not ” teaching to the test” etc & only moving a bit from the “stagnating ” education criticised in 2010 & the low place of the UK in the world for Science, Maths & Reading etc. But MOST WORRINGLY the high percentage of children in 2018, reported in Dec 2019 with mental health issues relating to the education imposed on them & their teachers by UK governments & others. And too high a percentage of children believing then that they could ” not see their future”. Andreas Schneider reported to the UK government ALL of the severe criticisms, especially compared to 77 other countries.
    The most helpful comments & research on actual people & children regarding COVID medical issues & transmissions & the virtually identical viral load carried by children as by adults was revealed in early March abroad despite it being ignored in the UK especially by Professor Viner & others.
    Children did not exist in a mindless, brain vaccum from 23rd March. Most teachers ( in schools & from home) & parents did a fantastic job & the best for the children , while those in Education Departments, Children’s Commissioner & others actually gave children & parents minimal, if any constructive help but just criticised & refused to work & talk to teachers in how to cope with schools & re – opening, unlike many other countries where the best was done for all & the Education Ministers & governments there realised what their Duty of Care was to ALL.