Education minister explains what has to happen before schools reopen

Education Secretary Nick Gibb said reopening schools in England will be a priority at the start of the process to lift lockdown restrictions.

He told Commons, “It is the government’s strong desire to reopen all schools, colleges and universities as soon as possible.

“We will give priority to reopening schools when we start lifting lockdown restrictions.

“We are very much aware of the damage to the education and development of children, especially the most disadvantaged students, caused by absence from school, and the increasing burden on parents.

“And that’s why we allowed providers in the first few years to stay open during this lockdown.”

Mr Gibb said the government wanted to notify parents two weeks before schools reopen.

He told MPs: “The decision on when and how to reopen must be based on clear public health data, science and advice from Sage, the Joint Biosecurity Center, Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer , including questions orientated such as hospital admission and mortality rates, vaccination rates and the challenge of new variants.

“Ultimately, it was pressure on the NHS that led us to a national lockdown, and the government is carefully monitoring NHS capacity as it looks to see if the lockdown could be eased.”

Mr. Gibb continued, “The government recognizes that school principals, teachers, support staff, parents and caregivers need time to prepare for the reopening, and so (Education Secretary Gavin Williamson) made it clear last week that we would give schools notice Colleges and universities will be granted two weeks to prepare for their return to personal education.

“We want two weeks’ notice so that parents can make arrangements to care for their children, and we’ll be making announcements in the next few days.”

The Education Secretary “has failed to give parents, students and staff the credible plan they deserve,” said Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green.

She said, “I was pleased to see the school minister at the mailing box. I have more hope of getting answers from him than I’m used to from the Secretary of State, but even he has failed to give parents, students and staff the credible plan they deserve.

“We just don’t know what the government is doing to reopen the school other than what we’re reading in the newspapers.”

She added, “What is the plan for a full reopening? … Can it give us more clarity? Will schools only return if R is less than one? “

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