Schools will get two weeks notice before reopening, says Williamson

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he wanted schools in England to reopen “at the earliest opportunity”.

Mr Williamson said one of the “key criteria” for schools to reopen is whether the pressure on the NHS eases.

He brushed off opposition calls to step down after a series of U-turns.

“My main focus is getting the kids back to school as early as possible,” he told Sky News.

“The schools were the last to close and the schools to be the first to reopen.”

He said he intended to give schools “a clear two-week notice” before they reopen.

Mr Williamson said the government would give parents and teachers “timely notice of when schools would reopen to give them time to prepare.

“We had to close schools, it was a national decision … to ease the pressure on the NHS and reduce the movement, but we want all schools to be open,” the Education Secretary told Times Radio.

“My excitement for seeing them open will ensure we do if we can open schools at the earliest opportunity.”

“We give teachers and parents time to prepare … and make them aware of it. But we want to see school children again.

“We want to give teachers, students and parents two weeks’ notice to get ready, and we will always look for ways to open schools to everyone as soon as possible.”

Mr Williamson said an additional 1.3 million electronic devices would be distributed to help with distance learning as schools remained closed.

He told Times Radio that providing laptops, tablets and routers was “the ultimate safety net” for disadvantaged students.

“In terms of laptops and tablets deployments, the school system already has 2.9 million laptops and tablets in inventory,” he said.

“We’re obviously filling that up, another 750,000 have already been shipped in the past few weeks (and) another 50,000 this week.

“We’re going to increase that to 1.3 million.”

Mr Williamson added that he had “made it clear to schools” what the “bare minimum” was for distance learning and shared the details with parents.

“We are making sure there is this ultimate safety net as there are teenagers who may have a laptop but are unable to access the level of service due to poor internet connection due to the area they live in or not in a situation where of which they can have this kind of access. “

Mr Williamson has said he hopes daily testing of students and staff in secondary schools for coronavirus can resume.

The program was “suspended” on Wednesday on the advice of Public Health England over concerns about the new variant of the virus.

Mr Williamson told BBC Breakfast: “With the advent of a new variant, we were asked by Public Health England to investigate more closely how this works with the new variant.

“We very much hope that we can restart the program that worked so well.”

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