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Educational Institutions: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 131492, tabled on 17 December 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of extending the Christmas 2020 holidays for students in schools and universities by one week to provide a circuit breaker for the covid-19 virus.

Answered on

20 January 2021

On 4 January, my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, announced new national restrictions in England. During this period, primary, secondary, alternative provision, special schools and colleges will remain open to vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers only. In universities, we are prioritising the return to face to face teaching only for courses which are most important to be delivered in-person in order to support the pipeline of future key workers. Wherever possible, teaching should be provided online. The list of subjects where face to face learning can continue is available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/950583/Students_returning_to_and_starting_higher_education_in_Spring_Term_2021_FINAL_v3.pdf.

The reason for restricting attendance, more broadly, is to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by reducing mixing of households in the community. This decision to restrict attendance in the spring term does not suggest that schools and colleges are no longer safe places for children and young people. Instead, limiting attendance is about reducing the number of contacts that all of us have with people in other households.

The Government is doing all it can to minimise the risks to those working and studying in our registered childcare settings, schools, colleges, and universities in this unprecedented situation, while mitigating the impact on education.

On the 7 January, the Department published:

On the 8 January, the Department published guidance on actions for further education colleges and providers during the COVID-19 outbreak: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-further-education-provision.

On the 14 January, the Department published additional guidance for special schools, specialist post-16 providers and alternative provision during the national lockdown: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/952377/Guidance_for_special_schools__specialist_post-16_providers_and_alternative_provision_during_the_national_lockdown.pdf. This provides further information on actions schools can take to support and encourage the attendance of vulnerable children and young people, as attending their school is crucial so that they can receive high quality teaching, remain engaged in education and are kept safe from harm, and receive the specialist professional support they need.

The Department will continue to keep its plans under review and ensure our position is informed by the latest evidence.