#Coronavirus - UK Schools and Colleges will close on Friday until further notice with exams cancelled in May and June

Education Secretary, @GavinWilliamson yesterday (18 Mar) confirmed that after Friday 20th March the majority of schools, sixth forms and FE colleges will close indefinitely until further notice, possibly until September 2020.

Gavin Williamson 100x100Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

"Fighting Coronavirus and protecting the vulnerable and our NHS are the Government’s top priorities right now. That’s why we are asking schools, nurseries and colleges to close – except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

"We are facing increasingly extraordinary circumstances, but by asking schools to support our key workers and vulnerable children I am confident we will help beat this virus.

"I am deeply grateful for the civic spirit and dedication of everyone working in education, and I will continue to provide my full support throughout this crisis."

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland announced closures from Friday earlier on in the day. Schools will remain open for key workers and the most vulnerable.  

Boris Johnson 100x100Boris Johnson, Prime Minister commented on cancelled exams:

"We will make sure their (students) progress is not impeded"

He clarified that learners will receive the qualifications that they need, but will explain what this means in more detail in the future. 

This announcement affects 2.2 million College students and 10 million School pupils across the country.

Sector response to the statement by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson about COVID-19 and school closures

david hughes 100 x100David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges (AoC) said:

“With partial college closures announced across the country it raises major challenges for staff, students and families, but protecting the nation’s health is vital during these uncertain times.

"The Education Secretary has recognised the vital role that colleges play in their communities.

"We are working very closely with DfE and ESFA to manage the flow-on implications of this announcement and in particular the funding support colleges need to deliver.”

Tom Bewick, the Federation’s chief executive, said:

“We welcome the leadership and clarity that the Secretary of State has brought to the education and examinations system.

“This unprecedented public health emergency of tackling the coronavirus demands extraordinary measures. That includes systematic school closures and the cancellation of communal examinations and other physical assessments this summer.

“As exam boards and awarding bodies, we have already been working tirelessly with government officials and regulators behind the scenes to put in place the necessary contingency plans to ensure that pupils, students, apprentices and employers’ staff can continue to be recognised for their achievements. This work will continue.

“Over the coming days we will set out clearly the options for ensuring that those who rely on examinations and assessments in both academic and vocational settings are not disadvantaged.”

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Richard Marsh 100x100Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Director, Kaplan Financial, said:

"The No1 priority for everybody in this current crisis has to be protecting people’s health. Making all the work lifestyle changes required to keep people safe.

"But those of us who are not medically trained also have a role in looking out for those who are in many ways also in our care.

"We need to protect Apprentices - tomorrow’s workforce - as best we can so that their careers are set back as little as possible."

KevinCourtney100x100Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“We welcome the Government’s announcement that, for public health reasons, schools will now close. It is better for this to take place in an ordered way than the chaotic pattern of closures that was developing.

“We also welcome the clarity that SATs, GCSE, AS- and A-Level exams are to be cancelled.

“This offers some degree of reassurance to teachers, their students and parents.

“We note that, at this time of emergency, the Government has decided that teacher assessment is indeed a good method of giving reliable information about young people’s progress and achievements.  We will return to that when this crisis is over.

“Now, more than anything else the Government needs to concentrate on ensuring that children in food poverty are fed properly - these children are not just those on free school meals.”

Layla Moran100x100Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

“The evidence the Government is following suggests that closing schools and universities is now a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. The Government must start adequately preparing schools.

“Teachers and parents need as much advance warning as possible about when schools will close and how children will be looked after. Ministers must provide clarity about what schools are expected to provide and how vulnerable children will be protected. I have asked for an urgent call with the Education Secretary to seek some answers.

“The Liberal Democrats will be critical and constructive with the Government during this pandemic. We will support Ministers in their efforts to keep people healthy and safe, whilst arguing for more support for students, businesses and communities to help them manage this crisis.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:

“This has clearly been a difficult decision. Schools are already short-staffed because of Covid-19, but the closures will have a major effect on families across the country.

“Ensuring schools can stay open for children with parents on the front line fighting the pandemic is necessary.

“But this must apply to all workers with jobs in essential and emergency services, from hospital cleaners and porters, to 111 call handlers and social care staff.

“Pupils no longer in school will need extra support so their learning isn’t disrupted.  

“The government must work with all education unions on a clear plan to help school staff and pupils make the best of the next few difficult weeks and months.”

Matthew Fell 100x100Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:

“Difficult decisions are having to be made each day and people’s safety must always come first. Today’s announcement on school closures feels necessary, but of course will present challenges for parents and carers.

“Businesses will do all they can to help their employees in these unprecedented times. Companies will make every effort to offer flexible working, but many parents simply won’t be able to do their jobs and care for their children at the same time. With so many businesses already struggling with cashflow, government will urgently need to step in with additional support to employees who are unable to work because of school closures.”

peter lampl100x100Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), said:

“The challenges we face today are truly unprecedented. In closing schools, the government has – quite rightly – taken drastic steps to control the epidemic. It is not a decision that will have been taken lightly. But it is one that will have a particularly significant impact on low income children and young people, both in terms of their attainment and in accessing the wider support that schools provide.

“We must do all we can to alleviate the impact of today’s decision on those children. It is welcome the government has pledged to provide vouchers to make up free school meals. We need to join together to make sure disadvantaged pupils have access to high-quality support and learning in the coming months, as well as access to basic necessities and a safe place to be.

“The EEF will be publishing support and guidance in the coming days to help schools support all of their pupils, particularly those that need it most. We’ll also be working with organisations and schools across the sector, to make sure that they have the right programmes and support.

“The Sutton Trust is working with its partners to make sure the young people on our programmes have access to information online about university choices and applications, so that they don’t lose out without face-to-face support.

“The resilience of our teachers and schools never fails to inspire me. But it is only through a collective effort that we can and will get through these uncertain months.”

Alistair Jarvis100x100Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:

“We are facing unprecedented challenges as a country, and universities continue to respond in the best interests of their students, staff and their local communities. The health and wellbeing of all students and staff is the number one priority and a range of measures are being taken to keep university communities well-informed, supported and safe.

“The government understands that universities must continue some essential services and cannot fully be locked down given students living on many campuses and some areas of research that cannot be left unmonitored. Universities are particularly mindful of international students who are separated from friends and family and may be unable to travel because of the pandemic. Universities will continue to do all they can to support those remaining on campuses and keep them safe, and are regularly communicating with students and staff to provide them with timely and accurate information.

“Universities are also considering ways in which they can support their local communities and the national effort – offering expertise, equipment and facilities.

“We await further information following today’s announcement that school exams will not go ahead. Students should not lose out on the opportunity to go on to university this year because of the challenges posed by the pandemic. We are committed to working closely with the government, UCAS, examination regulators and school leaders on the practical implications of this and hope there will be clarity on this for students, parents, teachers and university admissions staff as soon as possible.”

Gerard Barnes 100x100Gerard Barnes, CEO of Smart TMS, said:

“It has been made extremely clear to us at Smart TMS that the young people of Britain are contending with widespread mental health problems. A shocking proportion of the UK's youth are exhibiting and reporting clear signs of depression and anxiety, characterised by low self-esteem, social anxiety, and difficulty or lack of desire to carry out everyday tasks.

"Young people in the UK are already dealing with high levels of stress from various sources; the ever increasing pressure to succeed at school, the difficulties negotiating social situations and the impact of social media to name just a few. Now however, they are facing a completely different reality amidst the school closures and exam cancellations, one which is extremely uncertain and has the potential to complicate or even impede their chances of academic success.

 "It is vital that the government provides more information on the school closures and exam cancellations as soon as possible, and they must develop a clear plan to help students get the qualifications that they need to secure their futures. Finally, it is also of paramount importance that more mental health provisions are made available to young people to cope with the severe impact that COVID-19 has had on their way of life.”

judith blake 100x100Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“School have been struggling to stay open because of staff shortages and today’s decision to close schools provides much needed clarity for head teachers, parents and families. It is important that schools will be kept partially open to provide childcare for parents unable to work at home because they are leading local efforts to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

“Councils and schools will continue to do all they can to try and ensure vulnerable pupils, including those on free school meals and those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, can continue to be provided for.”

Ryan H 100Ryan Hayes, Primary School Teacher and Sports Co-ordinator, Ash Cartwright and Kelsey Primary School comments:

“Although schools are a place for education, they are also providers of supervision, safety, free school meals and routines. With many parents working for the NHS or other key roles, some children have no parent at home during these uncertain times.”

“Safeguarding the children is our biggest priority. There will be many of us, who will continue working as normal to oversee those children whose parents are helping to fight against the coronavirus pandemic. We can also offer help with schoolwork for kids that are staying at home and encourage parents to contact us if necessary.”

“Although teachers are unable to predict the situation over the coming months, we will bring a sense of normality and safety, all the time we can. If all teaching staff contribute, support the government advice and protect the vulnerable children that still need to attend school, we can look towards recovering from this crisis.”

Kathryn Petrie, Chief Economist, The Social Market Foundation (SMF), said:

“School closures might be a necessity for public health but in these unprecedent times we must think about how these closures will impact students from different backgrounds.” 

“Evidence shows that disadvantaged students tend to experience higher amount of learning loss and it is a real concern that gaps in educational attainment will widen over this period. We must do more to support schools, parents and children during this time.”

Juliana Mohamad Noor 100x100Juliana Mohamad Noor, Vice President (Further Education), NUS said:

“The news that schools and colleges will close down is in the interest of public health and vulnerable staff across the UK. Schools must now be able to care for the most vulnerable children in our communities. We especially welcome the cancellation of exams in England and Wales this year, and efforts must now be made to find a grading settlement in time for students due to start new courses in the next academic year. We know that relying solely on predicted grades disbenefits Black students and those from a working-class background, and we urge the government to find a fair solution.”

Zamzam NUS 100x100Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS National President, along with the support of the other three Presidents, Liam McCabe (NUS Scotland), Rob Simkins, (NUS Wales) and Robert Murtagh (NUS-USI) have released the following statement:

“NUS has the health, safety and wellbeing of the seven million students we represent as an absolute priority. First and foremost, we’re working closely together with students’ unions, institutions, trade unions, national sector bodies, like Universities UK and the Student Loans Company, along with the governments of the UK to inform a response to coronavirus, as the landscape continues to change.

“We welcome institutions finding ways to progress, assess and support students and apprentices to complete their qualifications during this time.

“NUS is calling for institutions to work closely with their students’ unions to find solutions to issues students face with halls, accessing teaching and research and pastoral support measures that work in their local context considering the student body, and the nature of their education.

“Apprentices must also be reviewed in cases where their employers cease operation, we also want flexibility and support from the agencies involved to transfer learners between employers and/or transfer to equivalent full-time education.”

Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel at APSCo said:

“This will, of course, have a major impact on our education members and their contractors – i.e. supply teachers given that if there is no work then there is no pay.”

“Education recruiters will be in the unenviable position of deciding whether to terminate assignments with their clients and will also have to look at their own business continuity planning given this decision. There is also the issue of protecting the income of the flexible workforce given that other sectors are also being impacted. We hope that the package announced by The Chancellor to help businesses survive this crisis will be accessible soon and easily.”

ofqual 100x100A spokesperson for Ofqual said:

"We welcome the certainty that the Secretary of State’s decision not to hold exams this summer provides in these challenging circumstances. We will now work urgently with the Department for Education to work through the detail of this decision and to provide more information as soon as possible."

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