Education Secretary: We will 'move heaven and earth' to avoid closing schools again

2 September 2021, 13:44

By Elizabeth Haigh

The Education Secretary told Nick Ferrari on LBC that he hopes children will have a "much more normal experience of school life" this year.

Gavin Williamson told Nick that he will "move heaven and earth to make sure that we aren’t in a position of having to close schools."

But he also refused to rule out a rise in infections after schools return.

Secondary schools will be expected to carry out asymptomatic testing of all pupils before the start of term, Mr Williamson confirmed.

He said: "We did this in the previous term, it worked incredibly well, identified cases before those children were obviously in the classroom."

"We have every confidence that that will work well this time as well, identifying cases and keeping covid out of schools as much as possible."

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All secondary school and college pupils in England will be invited to take two lateral flow tests at school, three to five days apart before their return to the classroom.

Mr Williamson told Nick that lateral flow tests are now quite a normal thing to do.

"I know both my daughters have got very used to it, as have I."

The Education Secretary told LBC that the aim was for "children to experience a much more normal, pre-pandemic education experience as possible.

"You're seeing the end of bubbles, children not having to wear masks."

But he refused to rule out assemblies and classes taking place outside.

He said that the return to normality also applies to exams, highlighting that schools have not been able to have a normal exam cycle for the last two years.

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"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."

He added: "We want children to be having a much more normal experience of school life."

The Education Secretary wished children returning to school all the best: "There's going to be a lot of excitement, maybe a bit of nervousness... children going to school for the first time."

Children now will not have to self-isolate if they come into contact with a positive case of covid-19. Instead, they will need to get a PCR test and isolate only if they receive a positive result.