Gavin Williamson

Education Secretary @GavinWilliamson is due to deliver a statement to parliament tomorrow (6 January) to give an update on a package of support for young people following the announcement that schools and colleges will close to all but vulnerable children and children of key workers.  

Support for families including a strengthened remote learning offer and the next steps on the process to put in place alternative arrangements for exams are expected to be included.

There is recognition that this is an anxious time for students who have been working hard towards their exams. The government position is that we will not be asking students to sit GCSE and A Levels. Working alongside Ofqual, the department will consult on how to award all pupils a grade that reflects the hard work they’ve done and will continue to do.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“I know what a challenging time this is for families, young people, and for everyone working so hard in education. I also know the enormous lengths that teachers and support staff have gone to throughout this pandemic – the benefit of that work on children’s education and wellbeing is quite simply immeasurable, and has enabled millions to be back in classrooms spending valuable time with their teachers.

“It is now vital that we support our young people at home, including making sure all students are receiving the best possible remote education, and that those students who were due to take exams can still progress to their next stage of education or training.

“Education continues to be a national priority - these new national restrictions do not change that. I am determined that this virus, and the steps we all must take to fight it, do not come at the cost of children’s life chances.”

In light of the evolving public health measures, the government has also confirmed that schools and colleges can continue with the vocational and technical exams that are due to take place in January, where they judge it right to do so.

A Department for Education spokesperson said

“In light of the evolving public health measures, schools and colleges can continue with the vocational and technical exams that are due to take place in January, where they judge it right to do so.

“We understand this is a difficult time but we want to support schools and colleges whose students have worked hard to prepare for assessments and exams where necessary. This may be particularly important for VTQs which require a ‘license to practise’ which can only be fulfilled through practical assessment, such as an electrician.”

“Schools and colleges have already implemented extensive protective measures to make them as safe as possible. We will continue to work with Ofqual, awarding organisations and other stakeholders to discuss the next steps and provide more detail on the way forward, including ensuring other students have a way to progress with as little disruption as possible.”

To support remote learning, Oak National Academy was set up last year and is backed by government – with 10,000 online lessons created by teachers available, offering a curriculum covering reception to year 11. 

The BBC is also offering its biggest education offer in history from Monday 11 January.  CBBC will have a three-hour block of primary school programming from 9am each weekday  and BBC Two will cater for secondary students with at least two hours of content each weekday.

The government has scaled up our devices scheme, with more than one million laptops and tablets purchased for disadvantaged young people during this pandemic, supporting schools and students to access remote education.

To support the delivery of remote education for children and young people, the government provided 560,000 laptops tablets to schools and local authorities in 2020.

Over 50,000 laptops and tablets were delivered to schools across the country on Monday 4 January, and over 100,000 will be delivered in total during the first week of term.

The Department has partnered with some of the UK’s leading mobile network operators, including EE, Three, Tesco Mobile, Smarty, Sky Mobile and Virgin Mobile,  to provide free data to disadvantaged families. Families will benefit from this additional data until July 2021. Schools will be able to request free mobile data uplifts via the Get Help with Technology service which was launched in December. 

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