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Coronavirus: Schools

Question for Department for Education

UIN 138023, tabled on 14 January 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to support schools during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered on

22 January 2021

This has been a challenging time for teachers and school leaders, and the Government has supported them since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. We have regularly published and updated guidance to ensure that it reflects the most up to date medical and scientific information to make sure that teachers, parents, and young people are as well-informed as possible in the current rapidly changing circumstances. The latest guidance for schools, on restricting attendance during the national lockdown, is available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/952443/210114_School_national_restrictions_guidance_FINAL_14012021.pdf.

This guidance includes the Public Health England endorsed system of controls which, when implemented in line with a revised risk assessment, create an inherently safer environment for staff and pupils where the risk of transmission of the infection is substantially reduced. This provides a framework for schools and colleges to put in place proportionate protective measures to manage risk effectively, which has been in place since the start of the autumn term.

To help identify and limit the asymptomatic spread of the virus within the teaching workforce we have made rapid-result COVID-19 tests available to schools. Information about the testing programme for schools is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/asymptomatic-testing-in-schools-and-colleges.

To support schools in providing remote education to most pupils during the current lockdown, we updated our good teaching practice and resources guidance on 12 January to offer up-to-date support to those who are teaching remotely.

The Government is investing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care services, including securing 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people. This includes over 800,000 laptops and tablets that were delivered to schools, trusts and local authorities by 17 January.

We have partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online as well as delivering 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home. We are grateful to EE, O2, Sky Mobile, Smarty, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile, and Vodafone for their cooperation to-date. We continue to invite a range of mobile network providers to support the offer.

All four major mobile network operators - Vodafone, O2, Three and EE - have also committed to working together to make access to Oak National Academy free for school children. Additionally, I am grateful to BT and EE, who are making access to BBC Bitesize resources free from the end of January 2021.

Funding and support is also available for schools to get set up on Google or Microsoft platforms. These platforms bring together the school community, pool resources and give pupils the opportunity to work with their peers remotely. As of 5 January, 6,900 schools have applied for a digital education platform.

Information about the good teaching practice and resources guidance and the get help with technology scheme is available at: https://get-help-with-remote-education.education.gov.uk/good-teaching-practice.html, and: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-help-with-technology-for-remote-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19.

To make up for lost teaching time and stop pupils and students falling behind, our £1 billion catch up package remains in place, including the £650 million catch-up premium and in school support through the National Tutoring Programme for the most disadvantaged.

The Government recognises the pressure that headteachers and teachers are under. We thank them for all that they have done and continue to do, to educate and support children as we respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.