Q. What proportion of state schools are actually doing interactive learning on things like Microsoft Teams? It’s incredibly low and isn’t that a problem?
Williamson says schools have provided amazing support to children.
Q. Are you committing to all state-school children going back every day full-time – not on rotation – in September and is this now government policy?
Q. Is getting rid of social distancing altogether a possibility or other measures, e.g. new buildings and teachers, in order to fulfil the PM’s pledge?
Williamson says he is signed up to bringing every child back.
He adds he wants to consult closely with the sector before guidance and plans are issued.
Q. Private schools have been able to do interactive video lessons. Why hasn’t this been possible in any state school?
Williamson says this is an important issue and he wants a long-term plan for state schools to do what private schools can.
He says over 12m lessons have been downloaded and a £100m investment into laptops has been made to roll out to some of the most disadvantaged children and making sure they have internet access to support their learning.
Q. Northern Ireland has already done this, why are we waiting?
Williamson says he wants to see all pupils return full-time in September and claims England is much further ahead than Northern Ireland because nursery, reception, year 1, 6, 10 and 12 are able to come back.
Further guidance will be published in the next two weeks so schools have time to prepare for the next phase, he adds.
Q. Why have early years and colleges been excluded from this £1bn plan when they were led to believe otherwise?
Williamson says they’re going to continue to work closely to see how they can support those sectors.
Q. How will you bring schools back full time when there is still any social distancing?
Q. Now that we’re in level 3, is the 2-metre rule going to be relaxed?
Williamson says he wants all children to return to school as quickly as possible.
The number of infections decreasing is a positive sign, he says. Protective measures will have to be put in place to ensure that schools are safe and further guidance will be issued in the next two weeks, he adds.
A review of the 2-metre rule is being undertaken and will be reporting back to the PM and cabinet to make a decision, he says, but for that he can’t give an exact date.
Q. But schools are saying that even with 1 metre, they wouldn’t be able to get every pupil back every day of the week.
Williamson says bubbles of 15 children have created a protective environment, and these could be expanded to include the whole class.
Bryn from Northallerton asks when the government will make its new advice for shielding in England available.
Williamson says this advice will be put out in the coming weeks.
Louise from Stoke-on-Trent asks what the government will do to make coronavirus testing an easier and less intimidating process for children.
Williamson says the government is taking steps to ensure better testing for children.
Schools will have the discretion to tailor this funding towards their particular needs and the needs of their children, he says.
The plan also includes a £350m national tutoring programme to increase access to high-quality tuition for disadvantaged young people, he adds.
Government launches £1bn catch-up plan for pupils in England
The next part of recovery is to roll out the catch-up plan for all children, he says.
An entire generation can’t be allowed to lose out on their education or accept lower expectations for them, he says.
A £1bn catch-up plan will be launched, and will include targeted support for those from disadvantaged backgrounds who are most at risk from falling behind because of the disruption, he announces.
As part of the package will be a universal catch-up premium worth £650m for all state school children in England to help make up for lost teaching time, he says.
‘We will bring all children back to school in September’, Williamson says
Williamson now turns to schools.
He thanks teachers, childcare and support staff for welcoming children back to learning environments.
All children in all year groups will be brought back to school in September, he says.
He says he understands many parents’ anxiety about this but safety measures including protective bubbles will be put in place.
The R remains unchanged from last week at between 0.7 and 0.9, Williamson says. We want to keep this below 1, he adds.