This is what we have learned today about when schools will reopen

Education and the date for reopening schools has been a central plank of debate around the coronavirus crisis in the UK today.
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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson gave the daily Downing Street press conference at 4pm today after schools and care for young people featured in many of the days headlines.

Ministers had already refuted rumours earlier in the day that schools were set to reopen in May.

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Mr Williamson apaid tribute to schools, colleges and universities, and their staff, for their work in education and for helping keep the country running by providing care for the children of essential workers.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Pictur eby Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA WireEducation Secretary Gavin Williamson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Pictur eby Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Pictur eby Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Here is a summary of the main points we have learned today about schools and their possible reopening:

No date can be given for when schools will reopen, and rumours it is imminent are untrue

Mr Williamson said he cannot give a date for when schools will reopen following reports children could be back in the classroom in just three weeks.

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The Education Secretary he wanted "nothing more" than to see children return to school but warned any relaxing of the coronavirus lockdown measures could only be taken when the time was right.

It came after Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove denied suggestions earlier in the day that schools could reopen in mid-May and that the Government had drawn up plans for a three-tiered relaxation of restrictions.

Reports claimed a "traffic light" strategy was about to be brought in which would see some schools and businesses allowed to reopen as early as May 11.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Mr Williamson said: "People are anxious to know when we're going to relax restrictions, when schools are likely to be fully back and open again.

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"Of course, I want nothing more than to see schools back, get them back to normal, make sure the children are sat around learning, and experiencing the joy of being at school.”

Five tests must be met before schools can be opened

Mr Williamson repeated the five tests first outlined by Dominic Raab on Thursday, which must be met before any relaxation of the lockdown, including reopening schools:

1) Making sure the NHS has the ability to cope

2) Ensuring a drop in the daily death rates

3) Reliable data showing the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels.

4) Sufficient testing capacity and PPE supplies

5) Being confident any change in the measures will not risk a second peak of infections

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"When we can be sure that we have met these five essential points, we can think about getting children into schools again, learning, mastering new ideas and being with their friends once more," Mr Williams said.

A new ‘national academy’ is launching to provide video lessons

The Oak National Academy will launch on Monday April 20, having been created by 40 teachers from some of the leading schools in England in less than a fortnight.

Its 180 video lessons per week will cover a broad range of subjects including maths, arts and languages for pupils ranging in age from reception to Year 10.

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"We hope this support will take some of the pressure off both parents and schools by providing more materials for them to use,” Mr Williamson said.

He also referenced the rescources the BBC is making available, both online and on television, to help children’s learning.

There are no plans to open schools over the summer holidays

Mr Williamson paid tribute to teachers and other staff who have kept schools open over the Easter holidays to allow essential workers to keep the country going.

When asked by Sky News’ Tamara Cohen if schools would stay reopen over the summer, including to help them catch up with learning, he said there were no plans to do so.

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The Education Secretary said the measures announced today, including the resources available online, would help children keep up with their learning and help parents support them to do so.

Free laptops to help disadvantaged children learn

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds across England are to receive free laptops and tablets to help them learn from home during the lockdown.

The move is part of a push to make remote education accessible for pupils while their schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Williamson said 4G routers will also be provided to ensure disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers can access the internet where those families do not already have mobile or broadband internet.

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He said many families took having internet connections and technology at home for granted, but there were many who did not.

Work was also taking place to see use of educational resources not counted as part of data use under limits in households’ internet packages.

Electronic devices will be ordered for pupils "in the most vital stages of their education for those who receive support from a social worker and care leavers", the Department for Education said.

Young people will be eligible for the devices if they do not already have one and either have a social worker or are care leavers, or are disadvantaged children in year 10, ahead of GCSEs next year.

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“Many of us take it as a given that we have good internet and IT facilities at home, but that isn’t a given for every single child in this country, that's why we have announced this package of measures,” Mr Williams said at the press conference.

The Government says supporting vulnerable children is a key part of measures

As well as continuing to support childline, the Government said it would also make funding of £1.6 million available immediately for the NSPCC to expand and promote its national helpline for adults.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said: "Unfortunately home is not always the safest place for a child to be. With schools closed and teachers and social workers' access to vulnerable children more limited, the onus is on all of us to recognise signs of abuse and neglect.

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"The NSPCC helpline is a crucial cog in the child protection system and this funding will enable us to increase awareness of our team of experts across the country and to expand their capability to provide a safe and confidential space for adults concerned about children during the coronavirus crisis."

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