Gavin Williamson has said that under 16 year olds should receive the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible to restore a “normal, pre-pandemic” school experience.
With the start of a new school year looming, millions of children will be returning to the classroom this week despite repeated expert warnings that rising case numbers could follow.
Gavin Williamson said in interviews this morning that his chief aim was to cause “minimal disruption” after months of lost learning.
Williamson stressed the importance of striking a “sensible balance” between safety and normality. He has warned people “not to get carried away with new freedoms”.
The education secretary said a “contingency framework” will be put in place to ensure this. Measures include include reintroduction of masks, separating year groups, reinstallation of in school testing centres, and outside classes.
“Measures can be introduced using common sense” he told Radio 4, but continued that outdoor lessons were unlikely to happen.
Students will receive two swabs at school, with parents then encouraged to carry on with twice-weekly home testing.
Vaccinating under 16 year olds
Williamson stated that testing is critical to keep schools open and added that there is capacity to both give vaccinations to 12 to 15-year-olds and deliver a booster programme.
Having already given the NHS the green light to vaccinate under 16-year olds, he stressed that parents should find the choice to vaccinate their children “incredibly reassuring”.
Williamson continued that he hoped the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) would give the go ahead to jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds.
Despite concerns from parents, educators and experts, the Education Secretary is confident that schools will not have to bring back class bubbles and face masks this winter.
“There’s a big difference between schools returning this September, compared to when schools returns last September and in March” he told BBC breakfast.