To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to (a) mitigate the risk to children attending school of developing long-covid as restrictions are eased and the use of school bubbles ends and (b) provide additional educational support for children who have reduced school attendance as a result of contracting long-covid.
19 July 2021
From Step 4, it will no longer be necessary to keep children and young people in consistent groups (‘bubbles’). As well as enabling flexibility in curriculum delivery, this means that assemblies can resume, and schools no longer need to make alternative arrangements to avoid mixing at lunch.
High and rising vaccine rates and strong vaccine efficacy, alongside the restrictions in place, have reduced the scale of the COVID-19 outbreak significantly since the start of 2021. In making this decision, the Government has balanced education and health considerations, weighing the impact of these measures on teaching, wellbeing and the functioning of schools, colleges and out of school settings against the COVID-19 risks in a context that has now fundamentally changed due to the success of the vaccination rollout.
The Department has worked closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England to revise guidance for schools, colleges and out of school settings from Step 4. Our aim is to balance the risks associated with COVID-19 whilst moving to a ‘steady state’, that minimises both the burden of implementing control measures on staff and parents and the impact those measures have on young peoples’ educational experience. The Department will continue to keep these measures under review in partnership with health experts and informed by the latest scientific evidence and advice.
The Government recognises that extended school and college restrictions have had a substantial impact on children and young people’s education. The Government is committed to helping pupils make up education lost as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly the most disadvantaged.
Since June 2020 the Department has announced more than £3 billion to support education recovery for children aged 2 to 19 in nurseries, schools and colleges. This will have a material impact in addressing lost teaching and closing gaps that have emerged. Recovery programmes have been designed to allow early years, school and college leaders the flexibility to support those pupils most in need.
The Government is committed to an ambitious, long-term education recovery plan, and the next stage will include a review of time spent in school and college and the impact this could have on helping children and young people to catch up. The findings of the review will be set out later in the year to inform the Spending Review. We will also be continuing to monitor how effectively children and young people are catching up.