Education secretary 'cannot give a date' for when schools will reopen

The education secretary has said he "cannot give a date" for when schools in England may reopen.

Speaking at the government's daily coronavirus update, Gavin Williamson said: "People are anxious to know when we're going to relax restrictions, when schools are likely to be fully back and open again.

"Of course, I want nothing more than to see schools back, get them back to normal, make sure the children are sat around, learning, and experiencing the joy of being at school.

"But I can't give you a date.

"Because before we do, we need to meet five tests."

The government's five tests are:

  • ensuring the NHS can cope when restrictions are lifted

  • a reduction in daily death rates

  • reliable data which shows the rate of infection decreasing to manageable levels

  • testing capacity and PPE able to meet current and future demand

  • ensure changes will not risk a second peak of infections

When questioned whether schools would stay open over the summer holiday to support the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils, as they did over the Easter break, Mr Williamson said there were "no plans" for this to happen.

The South Staffordshire MP also said he had asked local authorities to ensure "no one has to leave care during this difficult time" and added £1.6 million had been given to Childline and the NSPCC to help children and adults who are seeking advice.

He also spoke about announcements from the government, made earlier on Sunday, that children from disadvantaged backgrounds across England are to receive free laptops and tablets to help them learn from home during the lockdown and that a new online academy - The Oaks National Academy - will be launched on Monday to offer 180 online lessons a week for children up to and including year 10.

The Welsh government said it will confirm details of its plans for "digitally excluded learners" later this week, but measures it is considering include "recycling existing kit" from schools and giving it to students who need it and providing mobile hotspots for pupils who do not have access to the internet.

It said the costs would be met by the Welsh government's EdTech funding.

The Government's early response to the coronavirus crisis has come under fire. Credit: PA

On Sunday, a further 596 deaths were reported in UK hospitals, bringing the total to more than 16,000.

However, there are fears thousands more have died in care homes and in the community.

It comes just hours after a delivery of 84 tonnes of desperately needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line NHS staff as they treat patients with coronavirus has been delayed.

The shipment - including 400,000 gowns - was due to arrive in the UK from Turkey on Sunday afternoon.

It is not currently known when they will arrive instead or what caused the delay.

Also on Sunday, the government's early response to the coronavirus crisis came under heavy criticism in a wide-ranging Sunday Times report whichdetailed how Boris Johnson missed five meetings of the government's key Cobra committee as the health crisis was gathering pace.

Reports in the Sunday Times also claimed the government missed a series of opportunities to try and lessen the impact of the outbreak in February and March.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know