Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has made plans to help English university students go home for Christmas.
With the number of Covid-19 outbreaks in college centers, there have been major concerns that young learners might not be able to stay home in the event of a festive lockdown.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Williamson revealed plans to cut face-to-face meetings and lessons early – and in some cases to isolate them in the weeks leading up to the end of semester.
Serious fears have been expressed that students returning home for Christmas could infect more vulnerable relatives.
Gavin Williamson said it was “essential” that action be taken to ensure students can return home for Christmas.
He said, “It is important that we take steps to ensure this while minimizing the risk of transmission.
“When circumstances warrant, some students may need to self-isolate at the end of the semester and we will work with the sector to ensure that this is possible, including ending face-to-face learning when it becomes necessary deems.
“My department will publish this guide shortly so that every student can spend Christmas with their families.”
Gavin Williamson commended students and universities for responsibly following directions.
The Minister of Education told MPs: “We have now seen the admission of freshmen who, along with those who return to continue their studies, begin a new chapter in their life at the university.
“I know this will not be the start any of them would have wished for and expected, and I just want to say that I am delighted that both universities and students have responsibly followed directions and both themselves and their own friends and the local community in a safe place and out of the way. “
The secretary said the government is confident that universities are well prepared to deal with any possible Covid outbreaks.
He said, “If students want to stay in their university accommodation over Christmas, universities should continue to ensure that they are safe and well looked after.
“Of course, it is inevitable that Covid will appear in universities, just like in our larger communities and the constituencies we represent.
“However, we believe that universities are very well prepared to deal with any outbreaks that occur and we have worked with the sector and Public Health England to ensure they have all the support and assistance they need when they occur.”
Gavin Williamson said he doesn’t think students should face stricter measures than others in society.
He told Commons, “Both students and the wider community accept that when we live in a global pandemic, we must act in a society with limitations.
“But I don’t think we should try to impose stricter measures on students or expect them to have higher standards of behavior than any other sector of society – there has to be parity.”
He said the government will work with universities to ensure all students are supported to return home for Christmas if they so choose.
He said, “I know there are some concerns about the impact of security measures on the Christmas break.
“Students are important members of the communities in which they want to study. We expect them to follow the same guidelines as the same local communities.
“We will work with universities to ensure that all students are supported in returning home safely and spending Christmas with loved ones if they choose.”
Kate Green, secretary for shadow formation, said the situation with students returning to university was “desperately worrying”.
Ms. Green told MPs: “Across the country, many people are isolated in cramped conditions, parents are concerned about their well-being and safety, and university staff who worked so hard to prepare over the summer are concerned and angry that the government has not done so. ”t kept his part of the business.
“They have all been disappointed with the government, just as they have disappointed many of these students with the way they handled exam results last month.”
“What students, staff and their families need now is reassurance.”
Kate Green asked if Gavin Williamson had consulted the universities to put all fall semester classes online if possible.
Ms. Green said, “Everyone knew that returning students to universities would pose significant challenges, Sage warned of the impact weeks ago. What plans have been made over the summer to ensure that students can return safely? “
She added, “What’s his message to the students who haven’t moved to campus? They need clarity – should they?
“What urgent steps is he taking to ensure that every student receives the best education possible, whether they are at home or on campus?”
Ms. Green continued, “He’s right that some courses require face-to-face tuition, but has he considered helping universities move all of the tuition online where they can at least for this first semester?”
Kate Green added that if Gavin “doesn’t get a grip” on Williamson, the situation could get worse.
She said: “We cannot forget that at the center of this crisis are thousands of young people, many away from home for the first time, many now isolated from a group of people who are practically strangers. We can only imagine how difficult it is it’s for her.
“The Foreign Secretary said he asked the universities to provide additional help, but besides asking what will his department do to help them?”
Ms. Green added: “If he does not get a grip, the situation we have seen in the past few days could repeat itself across the country. Students will not be able to continue their studies, families will be for their welfare and their universities will be concerned about serious financial difficulties.
“And the foreign minister will have let young people down again because of his incompetence.”