Gavin Williamson said he will “move heaven and earth” to avoid shutting schools again, but he did not rule out a rise in Covid-19 infections being caused by children going back to class.
The minister also did not exclude classes and assemblies having to take place outside during this academic year amid coronavirus outbreaks in schools.
Asked if he could rule out school closures again, Williamson told LBC radio: “I will move heaven and earth to make sure that we aren’t in a position of having to close schools.”
The minister added that he was “absolutely” confident pupils will get their GCSEs and A-levels at the end of this school year after exams were cancelled for two years in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Charlie Stayt – Have the schools got those CO2 monitors today?— Haggis_UK ?? ?? (@Haggis_UK) September 2, 2021
Gavin Williamson – They are being rolled out during this term
Charlie Stayt – Why haven't the schools got these monitors… you knew when term started.. why haven't they got them now? #BBCBreakfast pic.twitter.com/UjMCdaExvh
He told LBC: “We’ve had two years where we’ve not been able to run a normal series of exams. I don’t think anyone wants to see a third year of that.
“We want to get back to normal, not just in terms of what the classroom experience is like but also the exam experience.”
But the education secretary did not rule out a rise in infections being caused by schools reopening.
Just listened on Today programme Gavin Williamson give possibly one of the worst interviews by a Government minister in recent years. After Raab’s dismal performance at the Select Committee yesterday, each day evidences we have a Cabinet of dangerously incompetent clowns.— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) September 2, 2021
After being asked repeatedly, Williamson told Sky News: “This is why we’re doing the testing programme and we’re encouraging children to take part in it, parents, and of course teachers and support staff as well. This is a way of rooting out Covid-19.
“We’re trying to strike that constant, sensible balance of actually giving children as normal experience in the classroom as possible, but also recognising we’re still dealing with a global pandemic.”
All secondary school and college pupils are being invited to take two lateral flow tests at school, three to five days apart, in England on their return.
Young people have had such a rough time of it recently. Lockdown, disruption to education, travel restrictions and everything else. But worst of all they have had the misfortune of growing up with Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary. Should have been sacked a long time ago.— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) September 2, 2021
Schools and colleges are being encouraged to maintain increased hygiene and ventilation, and secondary school and college pupils in England have been asked to continue to test twice weekly at home.
Williamson did not rule out outdoor classes and assemblies having to take place in the event of outbreaks.
But he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is certainly not something that we’d be expecting to see an awful lot of, especially in autumn and winter.”
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