Williamson insists government is 'working towards bringing all pupils back in September'

Education secretary Gavin Williamson had insisted exams will go ahead next year – adding the government is still “working to bring all children back to school in September”.

Williamson confirmed in a statement to the House of Commons today that the government has ditched its “ambition” to get all primary school pupils back in school before the summer.

Instead he said government will “continue to work with the sector on the next steps”, adding he would like to see “schools with capacity to bring back more children before summer if they’re able”, with schools given “much more flexibility” to do this.

Williamson said the government is going to “devise a priority list so that schools are able to, where they do have extra capacity, welcome back more children into those schools”.

Amid speculation of whether exams will also be culled next year as children catch up, Williamson insisted that “exams will take place next year”, adding the government is committed to minimising the impact of closure on pupils with exams next year.

He also said the government will be “working to bring all children back to school in September”. However, he revealed little about wider plans for how children would continue to learn if there is any disruption come the new school year.

He just said the government is looking at a “longer-term approach” that is “what we will be working towards and delivering”.

“We recognise the learning loss isn’t something that will be corrected over just a few weeks but action taken over a longer period of time and that’s the approach we are taking.”

It comes as government figures showed just over half of of primary schools reopened to more pupils last week.

Attendance data from around 18,500 educational settings shows just 52 per cent of schools that normally educate nursery, reception or years 1 or 6 pupils welcomed back at least one of those year groups last Thursday, June 4.

But the outlook was worse earlier in the week. Just 35 per cent welcomed back more pupils on Monday June 1, the government’s target date for wider reopening.

Williamson told MPs the government would “not hesitate to take action” in local areas where “there’s a rise in infections”. He said the government would look at closing clusters of schools if there were outbreaks, and that was the advice from Public Health England.