Schools FORCED to stay open despite coronavirus pandemic: Emergency laws could make schools and nurseries remain open as Gavin Williamson says parents don’t have to take time off
- Gavin Williamson said he was ‘mindful’ of increasing strain on public services
- The Education Secretary will meet union leaders and school bosses to form plan
- Britain is keep its schools open while other countries shut education systems
- A petition had urged Boris Johnson to close schools to combat the coronavirus
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Schools are staying open so parents don’t have to take time off to look after their children, the Education Secretary said yesterday.
Gavin Williamson said he was ‘particularly mindful’ of increasing strain on the workforce of public services such as the NHS.
Meanwhile a new package of powers set to be unveiled next week could force schools to stay open during the crisis, The Times reports.
The Education Secretary will host a coronavirus summit on Monday in which plans may be made to give free food to the poorest pupils and allow schoolchildren to sit exams at home. Mr Williamson will meet union leaders and school bosses to thrash out responses to worst-case scenarios.
But while Britain is keeping its schools open, other countries – including Ireland – are shutting down their education systems.
Mr Williamson maintained that the ‘impact of closing schools on children’s education will be substantial, but the benefit to public health would not be’.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson arrives at the Cabinet Office in London, March 12
Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) conference, Mr Williamson said: ‘I know your pupils will be worried about what all this means for their upcoming exams.
‘This is only to be expected, especially when so much hard work has gone into them. I want to reassure you that we are doing everything to make sure that this year’s exams are fair for students, and that their efforts will be fairly rewarded.’
He added: ‘Schools being open is important, especially for those children from the most disadvantaged communities.’
Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton has asked for clarity from the Government on whether GCSEs and A-levels will take place
Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, gave his backing to schools remaining open. ‘Young people are safest and are best served by focus on the routines, the rhythms of learning,’ he said.
Meanwhile, charities have written to the Government saying cash should be made available to help low-income families cope if schools are shuttered.
At least 1.5million children eligible for free school meals could be affected.
The charities said direct cash transfers are ‘by far the most effective tool in order to aid families to weather the storm’ and are preferable to vouchers and funding for lunch clubs.
Headteachers demanded to know if exams will go ahead when the coronavirus peaks as a petition to close schools soared to 445,000.
Mr Barton had asked for clarity from the Government on whether GCSEs and A-levels will take place.
He had said: ‘Parents and pupils are worried about being the victim of something out of their control and are asking, ”Will I get into college or university”?’
There were doubts over whether GCSEs and A-levels could be done outside school, with Mr Williamson saying the ‘integrity of the exam system’ was ‘vital’.
A petition, started by Sami Attout, urged Boris Johnson to shut down schools and colleges ‘in the coming weeks of as soon as possible’, to prevent the spread of Covid19