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Gavin Williamson: Restrictions in schools - including bubbles - to be removed "as quickly as possible"

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Today Education Secretary Gavin Williamson set out his plans to reduce the amount of time pupils spend isolating away from school. He said he wants to see the removal of all restrictions in schools - including bubbles - as soon as possible.

Here's his full statement to the House of Commons: 

This government is absolutely focused on returning society back to normal as soon as possible – and that includes in our schools and across the education sector.

As I have made clear throughout this pandemic, it is my top priority to keep children in school. And indeed, as I speak today it is the case that millions of children have been back in the classroom since March 8th, learning with their friends and teachers. I’m sure the House will agree that’s exactly where they belong.

The vast majority of schools are open - 99.8% of state-funded schools were open on 24 June – benefitting children who have given up so much during this pandemic.

Back in February the Prime Minister set out an extensive roadmap, and we need to continue to be careful now to complete our cautious but irreversible roadmap to freedom. We understand the frustration of parents and pupils who may feel like they are being asked to isolate unnecessarily

As I have said throughout this pandemic, children are best off in schools, as we continue with our educational recovery, it is vital that absence is minimised as far as possible - and that children and young people are attending school.

So I am looking carefully every day at how we manage the balance between safeguarding children’s education and reducing the transmission of the virus.

Because I know there are still too many children having their education disrupted, no matter how good the remote education they are receiving.

The new Health Secretary and I have already discussed these matters and I’m working with him, across my department as well as with scientists and public health experts.

But as this House is aware – some restrictions remain in place in schools. What I want to see is these restrictions, including bubbles, removed as quickly as possible along with wider restrictions in society.

I do not think it’s acceptable that children should face greater restrictions over and above those of wider society, especially since they have given up so much to keep older generations safe over the last 18 months.

Further steps will be taken to reduce the number of children who have to self-isolate, including looking at the outcomes of the daily contact testing trial, as we consider a new model for keeping children in schools and colleges.

We constantly assess all available data, and we expect to be able to confirm plans to lift restrictions and bubbles as part of Step 4.

Once that decision has been made we will issue guidance immediately to schools.

I would once again like to put on record this Government’s sincere thanks to all teachers for their dedication and work at this time.

My commitment to the House and to the children of Britain, is that as we open up wider society, we will stick to the principle that children’s education and freedom comes first.

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