Longer school days and shorter vacations are among the measures the government is considering to help students in England catch up on lost learning and education, Secretary said

Gavin Williamson said the BBC ministers had been investigating how the school year was going after the Covid disruption

He also told Sky News a five-year year and changes to the summer vacation were being considered

It is the first step on the “roadmap” out of the national lockdown, which has been in place since the beginning of January and where most children have been learning from home since before Christmas

When asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr whether the government was going to extend the school day, Williamson said, “I think we should be evidence-based and we’re looking at this, we’re looking at how the school year is going”

Mr Williamson told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge that ministers are considering “a number of proposals”

The Education Secretary was asked if the schools would stay open if the R-number went above one, which means the number of cases continues to rise

“As part of the roadmap, we are very careful about the fact that schools actually remain open,” Williamson told the BBC

“So we are proceeding cautiously because we intend that this is an irreversible approach and that schools will remain open”

Dr Susan Hopkins, associate director of Public Health England, said she doesn’t think schools should be suspended from reopening if the R-number goes above one

Three weeks before the Easter break, she told the BBC that it was time to “very carefully” check the data

She said the relationship between the number of cases and the number of deaths and hospitalizations due to the effects of vaccinations would also change in the next phase of the pandemic

“Then we can accept some cases in the community without needing further restrictions,” she added

Dr Hopkins said measures like testing students for asymptomatic cases would also help keep R “at the lowest possible level.”

School attendance is compulsory for all students when they reopen in England This means they shouldn’t miss classes without a valid reason

Students who shield themselves, however, were asked to stay at home a little longer

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “very hopeful” that the schools reopening would go according to plan

“I think the risk is actually in not going back to school tomorrow given the suffering and learning loss we’ve seen,” he added

It is common knowledge that children are at incredibly low risk for the virus, while research by the Office of National Statistics has shown that teachers are no higher risk of infection than other people of working age

However, the role schools will play in spreading the virus remains more open to debate. Children eventually come home and mingle with their families
Government advisers say schools have not been a major driver of infection so far, which can be seen in the impact of England’s second national lockdown in November, when infection rates fell despite schools being open

It did so before the new British variant dominated, however, modeling has shown that reopening schools now could be enough to bring the R-number above one, leading to a growing epidemic

Ministers have already indicated that this is less important than it used to be as the vaccination program has begun to break the link between infection rates and serious illness and death The R-number is not one of their tests to slow the pace of unblocking, only such high rates of infection as risking a spike in hospital admissions that threaten the NHS are seen as a problem

Secondary schools have been told that grade groups can return on different days during the first week to allow for Covid testing

Secondary school students are tested three times in the first two weeks of school and then given two tests each week for use at home

These are lateral flow tests that take a swab from your nose and throat and get a result within 30 minutes

Rapid tests are also offered to all primary and secondary staff twice a week, and parents and carers can also have a test twice a week

However, concerns have been expressed that false positives could lead to students and their families being forced to unnecessarily isolate themselves

Tests performed at home require a more detailed confirmatory PCR test Dr However, Hopkins said those done in school would not because it is done in a “specialized environment and individuals are trained to do this”

She added that evidence from lateral flow tests conducted in real-world scenarios over the past eight weeks suggested that the false positive rate was “extremely low” – less than one in 1000

Meanwhile, the National Education Union (NEW) has warned that secondary schools are struggling to get parental consent to test students and that there needs to be a major ministerial push to encourage admission

Mr Williamson said the introduction of tests in schools in recent weeks indicated that they had “the highest take-up of any job in the country”

The NEW has called for a gradual return to schools in England – similar to Scotland and Wales, where whole annual groups return several weeks apart

The union also accused the government of failing to take adequate security measures before the schools reopened

Jonathan Ashworth, Labor shadow health secretary, said schools should reopen but safety measures including adequate ventilation should be put in place

He added that it was also “disappointing” that teachers were not given a priority for the coronavirus vaccine

In addition to tests, secondary school students and students are asked to wear face coverings in classrooms where social distance cannot be maintained The measure must be checked at Easter

However, this is not compulsory, and in elementary schools students do not need to wear face covers when returning to face-to-face classes nor will they be tested

In the meantime, a survey has shown that the majority of parents in England will be happy to send their children back to school

However, two thirds are concerned about the loss of learning Some parents fear that their child will never catch up

The Department of Education has announced a £ 700 million package to help students catch up on lost learning, including tutoring and summer schools

There are different rules for schools in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the UK’s decentralized nations have the power to set their own coronavirus restrictions

The youngest students have already returned to school in Scotland and Wales, while some elementary school students in Northern Ireland will also be returning to school on Monday

A member of the royal household spoke about how “dark” her baby’s skin could be, says the Duchess

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Gavin Williamson

World News – GB – Covid: Gavin Williamson considers a longer school day and shorter vacation

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56311723