Gavin Williamson ‘certainly hopes’ schools in England will reopen before Easter

The Education Secretary says schools in England will be given two weeks’ notice to prepare for reopening.

Coronavirus signs on the gates of Reading School
Coronavirus signs on the gates of Reading School

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said he hopes schools in England can fully reopen to pupils before Easter.

Mr Williamson said that he wanted to get pupils back in the classroom at the “earliest possible opportunity”.

“I would certainly hope that that would be certainly before Easter,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Primary and secondary schools were ordered to close their doors to all but vulnerable children and the children of key workers when England went into a third national lockdown at the beginning of January.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson
Gavin Williamson has said he wants schools to reopen as soon as possible (Toby Melville/PA)

Boris Johnson warned that most pupils would have to continue with remote learning until after the mid-February half-term break.

Mr Williamson said that a key criteria in determining when schools could reopen would be whether the pressures on the NHS had eased sufficiently.

He said the Government aimed to give schools a “clear two-week notice period” so that they were able to prepare properly to welcome pupils back.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister wanted schools to reopen as quickly as possible but refused to be drawn on whether it would be before Easter.

“If we can open them up before Easter then we obviously will do but that is determined by the latest scientific evidence and data,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

The Education Secretary also said he hoped that a programme of daily coronavirus tests in secondary schools and colleges as an alternative to self-isolation would be able to resume.

Under the scheme, pupils and staff who were in close contact with someone who has tested positive would be tested for seven days and they would be allowed to remain in school if the test was negative.

However the scheme was suspended on Wednesday on the advice of Public Health England amid concerns about the new variant coronavirus.

“They wanted to look at more detail as to how that was working with the new variant. We very much hope that we will be able to restart that programme that worked so well,” Mr Williamson told BBC Breakfast.

During a round of broadcast interviews, he brushed off calls by Labour to resign following a series of U-turns during the pandemic.

“My real focus is making sure that children get back into school at the earliest possible opportunity,” he told Sky News.

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