The Government is not pursuing its own agenda in dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. The truth of the matter is that schools may not be returning on 1st June, it depends on the scientific evidence.
The Government is taking advice from the leading virologists, epidemiologists and other scientists who are advising it. That advice is only as good as the data that exists. One must expect the advice from scientists to change as more and more is known about the virus. The scientific advice on coronavirus which has been given to the Department of Education can be found at this link.
I do not agree with the position adopted by the teaching unions and I am pleased that that view has cross-party support. I welcome constructive comments, but I do not see how trying to second guess the experts helps anyone. The advice relating to schools reopening can be found at this link.
Now that we are making progress in reducing the transmission of coronavirus we anticipate, with further progress, that from the week commencing 1st June at the earliest we may be able to welcome back more children to nurseries, schools and colleges. We will only do this provided that the five key tests set by Government justify the changes at the time, including that the rate of infection is decreasing and the enabling programmes set out in the Roadmap are operating effectively. As a result, we are asking schools, colleges and childcare providers to plan on this basis, ahead of confirmation that these tests are met. Our approach is underpinned by our latest understanding of the science, which indicates that we need to take a phased approach in order to limit the risk of increasing the rate of transmission above 1.
Staff and children in all settings will be eligible for testing if they become ill with coronavirus symptoms, as will members of their households, and the track and trace approach will be applied to any confirmed cases. Those who are extremely clinically vulnerable, or are living with someone who is, are not expected to attend. This is a careful step by step approach.
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