Thank you for writing to me about schools.
Children's education is vital and whilst I believe it was right to strain every sinew to try and keep schools open, I think, in the circumstances, the Government made the right decision that schools in England must now stay closed for most pupils. I would like to thank teachers and all school staff who did everything in their power to make schools safe, and who are now continuing to support the education of our children as best they can, including supervised online learning for most pupils.
The Prime Minister outlined in his address on 4th January how the new, more transmissible, variant of the virus has caused a rapid and worrying increase in the number of coronavirus cases. Hospitals are under more pressure than at any time since the start of the pandemic. I therefore support the Government in its decision that more stringent action is necessary at this point to reverse the spread of the virus.
Sadly, because of the increased transmissibility of the new variant, the lockdown has included the closure of schools. As of 5th January, primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across England moved to remote provision, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Early years settings can stay open for all children.
For more information please see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home
In light of the closures, hundreds of thousands of laptops and tablets are being provided to support children's remote learning. The Department for Education have purchased over 1 million laptop and tablets. 560,000 devices have already been delivered to those who need them, and hundreds of thousands more will be provided in the coming weeks.
Over £300 million has been invested to help schools and colleges as they transition to remote education provision, including £4.84 million to fund the Oak National Academy, an online resource, designed by teachers, which provides video lessons across a wide range of subjects for every year group from Reception to Year 10. Teachers are also being provided with peer to peer help through our EdTech Development programme, which has supported over 6,000 schools and colleges through webinars, tutorials and bespoke one to one support for school staff.
In the current circumstances, the Government has announced that it will not be possible for all exams in the summer to go ahead as planned. The Department for Education has confirmed that GCSE, A level and AS level exams will not be going ahead this year. Instead, teachers will be asked to assess students' grades. Training and support will be in place to ensure these grades are awarded fairly and consistently across the country. Ministers are working with Ofqual to fine tune arrangements that will allow students to progress fairly.
I recognise that many of my constituents have concerns about education and welfare, and please be assured that I am sympathetic to the thrust of most of those concerns. I am pleased that extra support is being provided to make sure that every child entitled to a free school meal will continue to receive them while schools are closed. I am also pleased that Three UK have announced that, in partnership with the Department for Education, they will be providing free internet data to disadvantaged children in Woking.
For more details please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/one-million-laptops-and-tablets-for-disadvantaged-children-and-young-people
I recognise that this is an incredibly difficult time for so many, and I continue to take the concerns of people across Woking and our villages to Government when this is appropriate.
Thank you again for writing to me about this very important matter.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking