Coronavirus: Gavin Williamson frowns upon ‘school gates gossip’

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Gavin Williamson has told parents to cut out the gossiping at the school gates when dropping off their children, to cut the risk of spreading coronavirus.

The Education Secretary said they should be ‘really considerate’ and just ”drop their children off and then get on with all the tasks of their day’ when classrooms reopen next week.  

The return of children to school is a key test for the Education Secretary, who is already under pressure following the U-turn over A-level and GCSE grades.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Mr Williamson conceded that not all children may be back in class on the first day but his goal was to see them coming back ‘over the next few weeks’.

Schools are introducing measures including one-way systems and staggered start times to prevent gatherings of people which could potentially spread coronavirus.

‘We’re asking all parents to show understanding and consideration to the whole school community,’ he said.

‘Most schools have put in place staggered starts to make sure that there’s a swift and good flow-through of parents, and we just ask people to be respectful of the systems that are being put into place.

‘We’d ask parents just to be really considerate, make sure they’re able to drop their children off and then get on with all the tasks of their day.’

The under-fire minister spoke as he battles to get all pupils back to school next week, amid union resistance over safety fears.

Downing Street was warned today that headteachers won’t fine parents who decide to keep their children home. 

It came as Boris Johnson today appeared to lay the groundwork for a humiliating U-turn on pupils wearing face masks in school as he said ‘if we need to change the advice then of course we will’.

Currently head teachers in England are being told that face coverings will not be necessary in schools when they reopen next week as long as they adhere to hygiene rules.

But Nicola Sturgeon has said secondary school pupils in Scotland will be required to wear masks when in communal areas and when travelling between classes, piling the pressure on the PM to change tack.

That move was confirmed this morning by Scotland’a Education Secretary John Swinney who said secondary schools will be given ‘obligatory guidance’ that pupils should wear masks when outside the classroom from next Monday.

Downing Street and senior ministers have insisted in recent days that there were no plans to review the guidance in England.

But Mr Johnson has now signalled there could be a change in approach as he said: ‘On the issue of whether or not to wear masks in some contexts – you know, we’ll look at the the changing medical evidence as we go on. If we need to change the advice then of course we will.’

He added: ‘If there are things we have to do to vary the advice on medical grounds, we will, of course, do that.

‘But as the chief medical officer, all our scientific advisers, have said, schools are safe.’

His comments came as the Welsh government announced it is conducting a review into whether face masks should be worn in its schools.

Teaching unions have seized on the issue, with the Association of School and College Leaders demanding Mr Johnson follow Ms Sturgeon’s lead.

The Government is desperately trying to persuade parents to send their children back to school amid lingering safety fears and the face masks issue risks undermining the efforts of ministers.

There is now growing speculation that Ms Sturgeon’s decision to act first on face masks in schools will ultimately force Number 10 to reverse its stance.

It would not be the first time that the SNP leader has humiliated Mr Johnson during the pandemic.

She has repeatedly gazumped the PM throughout the crisis, taking action before the UK Government on things including announcing a ban on large social gatherings, closing schools and saying that the original three week lockdown would be extended.

The Scottish government was also the first to act in the wake of the recent exam results furore.

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