Gavin Williamson: Monday’s return to school is start of road back to normality

Those returning to secondary schools will find safety measures including face coverings in classrooms while rapid Covid-19 tests have been introduced.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson speaking at a podium
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson speaking at a podium

The reopening of schools across England for all pupils on Monday marks the “beginning of the road back to normality”, the Education Secretary has said.

Pupils have spent months learning remotely and those returning to secondary schools will find safety measures including face coverings in classrooms while rapid coronavirus tests have also been introduced.

Gavin Williamson wrote in The Sun: “We are all looking forward to Monday and I want everyone to enjoy this moment for what it is, and that is the beginning of the road back to normality.

“Our cautious approach, and the broad range of safety measures, are going to enable children to hit the ground running.

“We will all be helping to boost their learning, but most importantly we can let them get on with just being kids again.”

Ofsted’s chief inspector has expressed hope the newly introduced safety measures will be needed for “as little time as possible”.

The watchdog’s Amanda Spielman said she understood the “need for infection controls”, but hoped children would be able to return to a more normal environment after a short period.

Her comments came as ministers faced calls to provide more decisive guidance on face coverings in schools across England to prevent potential disputes.

The Department for Education (DfE) is advising secondary school students and staff to wear face coverings at school wherever social distancing cannot be maintained, including in the classroom.

But the measure – set for review at Easter – is not mandatory, and in primary schools pupils are not being required to wear face coverings when they return to face-to-face lessons.

Education unions have warned greater testing of pupils and the wider use of face coverings “may not be enough” to cope with the increased risk of transmission as schools reopen.

Nine unions, representing school leaders, teachers and support staff, have called for schools to be given flexibility to take local measures to strengthen the safety of students and staff.

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