gavin williamson

Gavin Williamson Refuses to Rule Out More School Closures

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson insists we shouldn’t get “carried away with these new freedoms” and has refused to rule out more school closures later this year as a “last resort” if there is another wave of Covid ‘cases’. The Sun has the story.

Mr. Williamson is pleading with parents not to lower their guard and to go on with testing at home.

He said: “It is important not to get carried away with these new freedoms and throw caution to the wind.

“The last thing we want is for schools to partially close again, or for whole classes of pupils to be at home isolating.

“That should be only the last resort. We need to do everything we can to avoid the levels of disruption we saw last year from the pandemic.”

Whitehall officials remain confident fresh school closures are unlikely and say the country is in a very different place to last year.

They point to the success of the vaccine drive and the fact there are detailed plans to squash outbreaks.

But Mr. Williamson insisted schools must still follow Covid precautions, with regular testing a key element.

He added: “Parents, too, have a responsibility to make sure children are tested regularly.

“I know there are many things people would rather be doing, but it’s really important to make time for it.”

Department for Education guidance states that secondary school and college students in England should be checked twice on site on their return, with lateral flow tests between three and five days apart.

Pupils should continue to test twice weekly at home until the end of September, when the policy will be reviewed.

Mr Williamson’s comments came days after experts said it was “highly likely” there would be high levels of Covid infection in schools by the end of September.

Worth reading in full.

School Bubbles Could Be Scrapped on July 19th, Says Gavin Williamson

Education Secretary Gavin Williams says he expects to announce the scrapping of the school bubble system as part of the end of lockdown on July 19th. The Government is facing pressure from schools and parents alike (and, more recently, from the media), with Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Business Minister, saying this morning: “My postbag has quite a lot of frustrated parents wondering why the whole class has been sent home.” Sky News has more.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Williamson said he wanted to see restrictions on schools and colleges – including the bubble system – removed “as quickly as possible along with wider restrictions in society”.

“I do not think it is acceptable that children should face greater restrictions over and above those of wider society especially since they have given up so much to keep older generations safe over the last 18 months,” he added.

“Further steps will be taken to reduce the number of children who have to self-isolate, including looking at the outcomes of a daily contact testing trial, as we consider a new model for keeping children in schools and colleges.” …

Trials have recently been held on using daily contact testing for children as an alternative to an entire school bubble made up of a class or even whole year group having to self-isolate if one of their number is infected.

Mr Williamson said ministers were expecting a report from Public Health England on those trials “in the coming weeks”.

But the Education Secretary signalled changes to coronavirus measures for schools would not come prior to the end of the summer term. …

Asked if children would not have to return to bubbles in the autumn, Mr Williamson later replied: “I don’t want to be pre-empting the decision of cross-Government in terms of the next stage. …

“[But] will be very much expecting that children would not be facing that in September.”

Worth reading in full.