Gavin Williamson press conference: Schools announcement tonight – major update for parents

Gavin Williamson quizzed on possibility of school day extension

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The Education Secretary will host a televised coronavirus briefing in which he will outline measures being taken to ensure children return to classrooms from March 8. He will also give details on a new £400million funding programme to keep children in schools for catch up lessons over the summer holidays.

Mr Williamson will address the country from Downing Street at 5pm.

Reopening schools is the first step in Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.

From March 8 children from both primary and secondary schools will resume in-person learning.

Regular testing of pupils for coronavirus will take place to ensure spread of the virus is kept low in education settings.

Secondary school children will also initially be required to wear face masks in classrooms in a bid to prevent a surge in Covid cases.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: “We’re reviewing that at the Easter holidays to see if that has had a positive impact, and the impact that Public Health England would feel is right, or whether it’s going to continue to be necessary.”

But the Education Secretary did not rule out that the policy could be in place until June 21, the final date in the plan to ease the lockdown.

At tonight’s briefing Mr Williamson is also expected to outline proposals in the Government’s education recovery plan.

Summer classes will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, such as incoming Year 7 pupils, while one-to-one and small group tutoring schemes will be expanded.

Mr Williamson this morning: “Our package of measures will deliver vital support to the children and young people who need it most, making sure everyone has the same opportunity to fulfil their potential no matter their background.”

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The Prime Minister has pledged an extra £400 million – on top of the £300 million announced in January – to fund the catch up programme.

The South Staffordshire MP has also refused to rule out extending the school day in order to help pupils catch up from the coronavirus disruption.

He told Sky News: “We’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.”

Mr Williamson is not expected to outline plans for awarding exam grades this evening, although an announcement on the issue is set to be made in the coming days.

Last summer the Government suffered severe backlash after a fiasco in how to award pupils’ GCSE and A Level grades given no exams had taken place.

The Education Department’s Permanent Secretary was forced to resign after the algorithm used to award grades was criticised for being unfair.

This year teachers are expected to play a far greater role in setting determining which grades to award students.

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