7 September 2020
Now that the new academic year has begun I wanted to write and congratulate you and let you know how very grateful both I and the Prime Minister are for your efforts in getting us to this point.
I know that welcoming all our pupils back has meant significant adjustments for you and your teams and I am filled with admiration for the magnificent way you have responded.
Since I last wrote to you, most of our schools and colleges have now returned and I am sure pupils and all staff will have had a wonderful first few days catching up with each other, and I do hope that you enjoyed it too. I have been absolutely delighted to see on social media some of the reunions that have been taking place.
We know from reports we have had from our local teams that children are returning as planned, while the National Association of Headteachers released data from its members on Friday that showed nearly all schools had reopened.
As the Prime Minister has made clear, getting children back into school has been a national priority. I don’t need to spell out to you how important it is for a child’s educational development and long-term prospects. However, I realise that there is still some nervousness, both among parents and possibly some staff too, about the full reopening of our schools.
Welcoming back all children and young people full-time
The medical advice supporting this has been unanimous. The Chief Medical Officers of all the home nations recently set out the evidence of risks and benefits to health from schools opening, which led them to conclude that a pupil risked more by not being in school than they did by attending.
Public Health England (PHE) has also just published its own study on Covid-19 transmission in staff and students attending pre-schools and primary schools during a four-week period in the summer term. PHE found no evidence that pupils or staff in these schools were at greater risk of Covid-19 than the general population.
To reduce risk, we published guidance on 2 July which set out the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’ that schools should put in place. I have seen for myself some of the innovative ways you have been responding to this and am deeply grateful for all the work you have been doing to implement these protective measures.
The safety and wellbeing of you, your staff and your pupils has always been my priority. I want to reassure you again that all your staff and pupils have access to testing if one of them should develop Covid-19 symptoms. We have provided a small supply of home test kits if anyone develops symptoms while at school or college and who may otherwise be unable to access a test. Every school or college that has been attended by someone who tests positive will receive direct support and advice from their local PHE health protection team.
We all know that the disruption caused to schools and colleges by the pandemic has led to the loss of crucial classroom-based learning. For some pupils this will be more acute than others, which is why the £1 billion Covid Catch Up Fund will enable you to provide extra tuition and support for those who need it most in a way that will suit them best.
I will continue doing everything in my power to make sure that children can catch up on lost learning, continue their education and make the most of their potential as we strive to level up opportunity across the country.
And on behalf of the Prime Minister and all my colleagues across Government, I would like to say thank you again for all of your efforts, your resilience and your service to our country’s children and young people.