Last reviewed 20 April 2020

Speaking at one of the daily Downing Street briefings on the coronavirus crisis, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson dismissed suggestions that the Government had a date set for schools to reopen.

He explained that this would not be possible until a number of tests had been met including the daily death rates from coronavirus coming down, the rate of infection decreasing to manageable levels and enough testing capacity and personal protective equipment (PPE) being available to meet present and future demand.

“Perhaps most crucially,” Mr Williamson went on, “we need to be confident any changes we do make will not risk a second peak of infections.”

Having indicated that no end is yet in sight for school closures, the Education Secretary moved on to describe his plans for helping children presently confined to their homes.

Created by 40 teachers from some of the leading schools across England and backed by grant funding from the Government, the online Oak National Academy has been launched.

Available at https://www.thenational.academy, it will provide 180 video lessons each week, across a broad range of subjects from maths to art to languages, for every year group from Reception through to Year 10.

The aim is for teachers to use these resources to complement their own lesson planning and remote teaching until schools fully re-open.

Recognising the problem that disadvantaged children across England will have in accessing remote education resources, Mr Williamson also promised to provide laptops and tablets for this group.

“Devices will be ordered for children in the most vital stages of their education,” he said, “those who receive support from a social worker and care leavers.”

Schools and colleges will be able to keep their laptops and tablets once they have reopened, the Education Secretary confirmed.

The Government will also provide 4G routers to make sure disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers can access the internet – where those families do not already have mobile or broadband internet in the household.

The country’s major telecommunications providers will temporarily exempt these sites from data charges.