GAVIN Williamson insisted tonight that lockdown easing WON’T be sped up despite demands from Tory MPs.
The Education Secretary revealed at tonight’s press conference that 18.2million have now got the vaccine across the UK as the rollout continues to go from strength to strength.
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And he backed comments from Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Downing Street that this was the right approach.
Even Professor Neil Ferguson had suggested that the lockdown lifting schedule may be sped up.
Jacob Rees-Mogg had admitted that there may be some “flexibility” in the timetable.
But the Government has repeatedly slapped down the demands and insisted they cannot move any quicker.
Mr Williamson told tonight’s press conference: “there are no plans to be moving ahead of that.”
He outlined again the plan to get kids back in school, with plans for kids to wear masks in the classroom, and to have tests twice a week from now on.
And he will confirm plans for kids to get their grades from their teachers this year tomorrow.
The Education Secretary said earlier: “Our focus is very much in terms of welcoming children back on the 8th of March.
“It’s an incredibly important part of our unlocking the country but it also goes to confirm the national priority is our children and their education.
“We’ve always said schools would be the last to close and first to open and we’ve been absolutely true to our word.”
His press conference comes after the PM confirmed in his roadmap out of restrictions that schools will be the first thing to reopen.
It comes as…
- It emerged secondary kids will be tested twice a week when they return to school
- Millions of self-employed Brits are set to be offered grants of up to £7,500 in next week’s budget
- MPs called on Boris to make the end of lockdown on June 21 a Bank Holiday
Earlier today Mr Williamson refused to rule out extending the school day or cutting short the summer break to help disadvantaged kids catch up.
He said: “He’ll be looking at how we can boost and support children in a whole range of different manners.
“But it’s not just about time in school it’s about supporting teachers in terms of the quality of teaching and how we can help them.”
And he said secondary schools will be allowed to stagger students’ return to the classroom to help them cope with the challenge.
Under the Government’s plans older students will need to be tested three times over their first fortnight back, subject to parents’ permission.
Mr Williamson said: “Schools are able to bring year groups in from 8 March depending on their capacity as to how they’re best able to do that.
“They’ve got a week to bring all those pupils back, so they can be tested during that week.
“If schools think they have the capacity to get pupils through by 8 March of course they can have them all there.
“All primary schools will be coming back on 8 March as well.”
The Education Secretary also revealed the requirement for secondary school kids to wear masks in the classroom will be reviewed at Easter.
But he didn’t rule out that the policy could be in place until June 21, the final date in the plan to ease the lockdown.
It comes after Mr Williamson said he is looking at “the whole expanse of what we can do in terms of helping children have extra teaching time”.
There are fears millions will be left behind after missing out on almost a year of time in the classroom.
Under new plans teachers will be asked to cut short holidays to help secondary kids with face-to-face lessons before the new school year starts in September.
Ministers want Year 7 pupils to get first dibs on classes, but say they will leave it up to head teachers to pick who should get priority.
England’s schools will get an extra £200million to pay teachers to staff the classes — which can also include sport and other activities.
But despite the extra cash, one source said Downing Street was braced for another “almighty row” with hardline unions over the plan.
Mr Williamson was repeatedly pressed this morning on whether the extra cash could be used to extend the school day or shorten the summer break – but he refused to be drawn on the details.
HOAR understands that ministers have considered extending the school day, but believe it would be too complicated for now.
That’s because unions are demanding new contracts for teachers if they’re asked to prolong their working day.
Mr Williamson also revealed that the Government will set out details of how teacher assessments will be used to replace exams this year in the next few days.
He insisted: “As we’ve said many times before we’re not going to be running exams this year, it’s going to be based on teacher judgement.”