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Written Question
Ellen Townsend
26 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Philip Davies

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many meetings (a) he, (b) his Ministers and (c) his officials have had with Professor Ellen Townsend in each of the last 12 months.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

The department does not have a record of any meetings between our ministers or officials with Professor Ellen Townsend in the last 12 months.


Written Question
Universities: Greater London
26 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Dawn Butler

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that the Government protects (a) higher education in London (b) Teaching Grant in London and (c) London weighting for London’s Universities.

Answer (Michelle Donelan)

The Strategic Priorities Grant, formerly referred to as the Teaching Grant, plays an important role in supporting providers and students to develop the skills and knowledge needed locally, regionally, and nationally to support the economy.

The Strategic Priorities Grant will be reformed for the 2021/22 financial year to ensure that more of taxpayers’ money is spent on supporting higher education (HE) provision which aligns with national priorities, such as healthcare, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and subjects meeting specific labour market needs.

The London weighting accounts for a small proportion of London-providers’ income. Providers in London received around £64 million London Weighting in the 2020/21 academic year, which is less than 1% of their total income.

Excellent provision can be delivered across the country. London universities will be able to benefit from the significant uplifts we are making to elements of the Strategic Priorities Grant, including the first real terms increase in years in per capita funding for high-cost subjects in Grant funding, as well as being able to bid for capital investment to support the delivery of strategic subjects.

We have also asked the Office for Students (OfS) for a £10 million increase to the specialist provider allocation, to support these institutions which are particularly reliant on Strategic Priorities Grant funding, many of whom are London-based. We want to ensure that our small and specialist providers, including some of our top music and arts providers, receive additional support, and that grant funding is used to effectively support students.

The OfS will consult on these changes shortly before final allocations for the 2021/22 financial year are confirmed and will carefully consider the impact of any changes on providers.


Written Question
Special Educational Needs
26 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Jack Lopresti

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to help ensure the adequacy of education for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

During periods of national lockdown, education settings have remained open to vulnerable children and young people, including those with education, health and care plans. The guidance for the full opening of schools is clear that all children and young people, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), should return to education settings full-time from Monday 8 March. Where it is not possible for a child or young person with SEND to attend their education setting during this period, there is a legal duty on schools and colleges to use their best endeavours to meet the educational needs of their pupils or students. Discussions should be collaborative, focusing on the welfare and views of the child or young person and their parents.

To support remote learning, the department has made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy, both for the summer term of the 2019-20 academic year and the 2020-21 academic year, to provide video lessons in a broad range of subjects for Reception to year 11. This includes specialist content for pupils with SEND, along with therapy-based lessons and resources.

Whilst inspection activity has been paused, Ofsted is conducting monitoring inspections of inadequate schools and some that require improvement. These include a focus on support for pupils with SEND, whether they are in school or being educated at home.

The government has announced further elements of the recovery support package so that children and young people can catch up on missed learning and development due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This will be supported with a new £700 million package, focusing on an expansion of one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes, as well as supporting the development of disadvantaged children in early years settings, and summer provision for those pupils who need it the most. These measures will build on the existing £1 billion support package, which includes a £650 million catch-up premium directly allocated to schools, with additional weighting for specialist settings, recognising the significantly higher per-pupil costs that they face. Headteachers decide how this premium is spent (for example, on educational psychologists, speech and language therapy or other activities to support children to catch-up).

We have put major funding investments into education, including increasing high needs funding for local authorities by £780 million this year and a further £730 million next year, boosting the total budget to more than £8 billion in 2021-22. Local authorities have been allocated a further £4.6 billion to help their communities through the COVID-19 outbreak. This funding is un-ringfenced, recognising local authorities are best placed to decide how to meet the major COVID-19 service pressures in their local area, including support to children’s services.

Through the SEND review, we are committed to ensuring the SEND system is consistent, high quality, and integrated across education, health and care. It is also considering measures to make sure that money is being spent fairly, efficiently and effectively, and that the support available to children and young people is sustainable in the future.


Written Question
Students: Coronavirus
26 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Daisy Cooper

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure university students who are required to extend finishing their studies to autumn 2021 as a result of the covid-19 outbreak receive additional financial support for tuition and living expenses.

Answer (Michelle Donelan)

It is a key priority of the government to ensure that as many students graduate on time this year and we are working closely with other government departments including the Department of Health and Social Care, to ensure this.

We also recognise that this is a difficult and uncertain time for students, but we are working with the higher education (HE) sector to make sure all reasonable efforts are being made to enable students to continue their studies. If providers are unable to facilitate good online or in-person tuition, they should seek to avoid charging students for any additional terms they may need to undergo as a consequence – avoiding effectively charging them twice.

Eligible full-time undergraduate students whose universities require them to extend their studies in the current 2020/21 academic year up until 31 August 2021 will qualify for means-tested long courses loans for the additional period of study to help them with their living costs.

Eligible full-time students who will need to retake either all or part of a year of study in the academic year 2021/22 from September 2021 onwards, may qualify for additional tuition fee loan support for their repeat study in the academic year 2021/22. Full-time undergraduate students qualify for fee loan support for the length of the course, plus one extra year if needed, less any years of previous study. A further year of fee loan support in addition to the standard entitlement can be paid in certain circumstances where students need to repeat a year of their current course for compelling personal reasons (which may include reasons associated with the COVID-19 outbreak). In addition, eligible students will qualify for partially-means tested loans for living costs for a repeat year or part-year of study.

Universities and other HE providers are autonomous and responsible for setting their own fees within maximum fee limits set by regulations. In deciding to keep charging full fees, HE providers will of course want to ensure that they can continue to deliver courses which are fit for purpose and help students progress their qualifications.

It is a registration condition of the Office for Students (OfS) that HE providers must deliver well-designed courses that provide a high-quality academic experience for all students and enable a student’s achievement to be reliably assessed. If HE providers are unable to facilitate good online or in-person tuition, they should seek to avoid charging students for any additional terms they may need to undergo as a consequence, avoiding effectively charging them twice. Whether or not an individual student is entitled to a refund of fees will depend on the specific contractual arrangements between the HE provider and student.

The government has been clear that universities are expected to maintain quality and academic standards and the quantity of tuition should not drop. Universities should seek to ensure all students, regardless of their background, can access their studies remotely. The OfS monitors online teaching to ensure standards are met, and there is an established process in place for students with concerns about their education.


Written Question
NHS: Apprentices
26 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Daniel Zeichner

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he plans to introduce an NHS apprenticeship fund to ensure that unused apprenticeship levy funds are retained in NHS budgets; and if he will make a statement.

Answer (Gillian Keegan)

The funds in apprenticeship service accounts are available for levy-paying employers, including those in the NHS, to use for 24 months before they begin to expire on a rolling, month-by-month basis. Employers in the NHS can choose which apprenticeships they offer, how many apprenticeships they offer and when they offer the apprenticeships.

We do not anticipate that all employers who pay the levy will need or want to use all the funds available to them, but they are able to do so if they wish. Funds raised by the levy are used to support the whole apprenticeship system. This means that employers’ unused funds are not lost but are used to support apprenticeships in smaller employers and to cover the ongoing costs of apprentices already in training. There are no plans to introduce an NHS apprenticeship fund to retain unused apprenticeship levy funds in NHS budgets.

We will again be making available £2.5 billion for investment in apprenticeships in the 2021-22 financial year, which is double that spent in the 2010-11 financial year.

In August 2020, the government announced a new financial package worth £172 million to support healthcare employers increase participation in nursing degree apprenticeships.

In addition to this funding, NHS employers in England will benefit from £2,000 for each apprentice they hire as a new employee aged under 25, and £1,500 for those aged 25 and over, up until 31 March 2021 as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs.

We continue to work closely with the Department for Health and Social Care, employers, and stakeholders to make sure the NHS is fully supported to recruit the apprentices it needs to deliver high-quality care.


Written Question
Adoption Support Fund: Carers
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Munira Wilson

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of extending the Adoption Support Fund to kinship carers.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

The government is committed to supporting families whose children have been in the care system prior to living with their new families. The Adoption Support Fund was extended in 2016 to include previously looked after children being cared for by special guardians, many of whom are kinship carers. The forthcoming Spending Review process will consider the Adoption Support Fund and its budget, scope and eligibility criteria.


Written Question
Schools: Food
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Caroline Lucas

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 4 June 2020 to Question 51682, on Schools: Food, if he will set out a timetable for the (a) delivery of the planned update of the School Food Standards and (b) publication of linked guidance to school caterers; and if he will make a statement.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

Due to the priority of responding to the COVID-19 outbreak and the pressures on schools that this presents, and considering the robustness of the existing school food standards, the government will not be taking further action during the course of the COVID-19 outbreak on updating the school food standards.

We have robust school food standards set in legislation. These standards require school caterers to serve healthy and nutritious food and drinks which make sure that school pupils get the energy and nutrition they need across the school day.

I wrote to schools in October 2020 to thank them for the hard work on getting their meals services up and running in the autumn term, supporting all children with healthy food as well as to remind them of the importance of the school food standards. The guidance in relation to free school meals during the COVID-19 outbreak can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools.


Written Question
Remote Education
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Lord Austin of Dudley

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Sutton Trust Learning in Lockdown, published on 21 January; and what plans they have to meet the Sutton Trust to discuss the report.

Answer (Baroness Berridge)

The data for the Sutton Trust report was collected at the start of the new term. Since then, the department has substantially increased delivery of devices to support vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils with remote learning.

The government is investing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care services, including securing 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, over one million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities and further education providers, as of Monday 15 February, with over 490,000 delivered since 4 January 2021.

The Department has also partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online as well as delivering over 60,000 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home and buying more for issues.

Where remote education is needed and pupils continue to experience barriers to digital remote education, we expect schools to work to overcome these barriers. This could include distributing school-owned laptops or supplementing digital provision with different forms of remote education such as printed resources or textbooks. This should be supplemented with other forms of communication to keep pupils and students on track or answer questions about work.

The Department has introduced a £350 million National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged pupils and students. This will increase access to high-quality tuition for disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people, helping to accelerate their academic progress and tackling the attainment gap between them and their peers.

As part of the National Tutoring Programme, schools in the most disadvantaged areas are being supported to employ in-house academic mentors to provide tuition to their pupils. During this period of national restrictions, as members of school staff, we expect mentors to continue providing tuition support to pupils in line with their school's policies.

The Department has responded to a written enquiry from the Sutton Trust and do not have any current plans to meet. We have conducted surveys with schools, pupils and parents throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and have collected data on access to technology, which will be published in due course.


Written Question
Schools: Nutrition
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Jo Gideon

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of investing the Soft Drinks Industry Levy revenues for the coming year 2021-22 in healthy eating initiatives in schools.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

In 2016, the government announced investment in several children’s health initiatives alongside the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, including doubling the primary PE and sports premium to £320 million a year from September 2017, and introducing the National Schools Breakfast Programme from March 2018.

The Spending Review 2020 confirmed the department’s overall budget for the 2021/22 financial year. We are committed to funding breakfast clubs and have extended the programme until July 2021. We are considering options for breakfast provision beyond this date and expect to say more shortly. The Healthy School Rating Scheme will also continue during the 2021/22 financial year.


Written Question
Schools: Coronavirus
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Wes Streeting

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of requiring the wearing of protective masks in schools by (a) pupils and (b) staff.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

The Department continues to work closely with other government departments throughout its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as stakeholders across the sector, to ensure that our policy is based on the latest scientific and medical advice, to continue to develop comprehensive guidance based on the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’ and to understand the impact and effectiveness of these measures on staff, pupils and parents.

As new evidence or data emerges, the Government updates its advice accordingly to ensure that all schools and colleges have the correct safety measures in place.

On 22 February 2021, the Department published 'Evidence summary: COVID-19 - children, young people and education settings' which includes a section on face coverings. It can be found at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/963639/DfE_Evidence_summary_COVID-19_-_children__young_people_and_education_settings.pdf.

We know that the predominant new variant of COVID-19 is more transmissible but the way to control this virus is the same, even with the current new variants. We are recommending additional precautionary measures during this period of high COVID-19 prevalence in the community.

The Department has published updated guidance for schools and colleges which includes a section on face coverings and takes effect from 8 March 2021. It can be found at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/964351/Schools_coronavirus_operational_guidance.pdf.

As our updated guidance outlines, where pupils in Year 7 and above are educated, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around the premises outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.

In addition, we now also recommend that face coverings should be worn in classrooms unless social distancing can be maintained.

In primary schools, face coverings should be worn by staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas. Children in primary school do not need to wear a face covering.

Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. This applies to those who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate. The same exemptions should be applied in schools, and we would expect teachers and other staff to be sensitive to those needs.

These measures will be in place until Easter. We will keep this under review and update guidance at that point.


Written Question
Remote Education: ICT
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Kate Green

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether it is his Department's policy that devices distributed through the Get Help with Technology Service should be returned to his Department at the end of that scheme.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

The Department is investing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care. We have secured 1.3 million laptops and tablets and have already delivered over one million of these to schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities, supporting disadvantaged children and young people who would not otherwise have access to a digital device.

We are making further deliveries all the time and expect to achieve our overall commitment of delivering 1.3 million devices by the end of the spring term.

Laptops and tablets are owned by schools, academy trusts, local authorities or further education providers who can lend these to the children and young people who need them most, during the current COVID-19 restrictions. They are not required to be returned to the Department.

The Department has partnered with the UK’s leading mobile network operators to provide free data to disadvantaged families, which will support access to education resources. Families will benefit from this additional data until July 2021.


Written Question
Children and Young People: Mental Illness
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Lisa Cameron

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that children and young people’s mental health is supported in schools and colleges following crisis intervention or inpatient provision.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

We remain committed to our joint green paper delivery programme with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England, including introducing new mental health support teams for all schools and colleges, providing training for senior mental health leads in schools and colleges and testing approaches to faster access to NHS specialist support.

To expand access to mental health support for children and young people with emerging mental health issues, we have committed to establishing new Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) in 20% to 25% of the country by 2023, as part of the additional support for children and young people’s mental health in the NHS Long Term Plan. MHSTs are intended to provide early intervention on mild to moderate issues, as well as helping staff within a school or college setting to provide a ‘whole-school approach’ to mental health and wellbeing. Where already established, MHSTs are adapting their services to continue supporting children and young people remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak. The first 25 trailblazer sites, delivering 59 MHSTs (covering approximately 4% of the country) were announced in December 2018. A further 57 sites were confirmed in July 2019 and started developing 123 MHSTs during 2020. More teams have been commissioned to begin training in the academic year 2020/21. These teams will become operational once the training of new Education Mental Health Practitioners completes. Training will be completed as soon as circumstances allow, in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The department is also committed to provide training for senior mental health leads in all state-funded schools and colleges in England. The training will equip senior mental health leads with the knowledge to introduce or develop their whole school/college approach to positive mental health are identified and implement effective processes for ensuring that they receive appropriate support, both to treat specific issues and appropriate pastoral support to keep them engaged in education where they are receiving or have had specialist treatment. MHSTs will be able to support leads with whole school approaches.

The COVID-19 outbreak has delayed the delivery of specific training for senior leads, as we decided to prioritise providing bespoke training and support to meet the immediate challenges that all schools and colleges will face in supporting the wellbeing of children and young people during the COVID-19 outbreak. We are reviewing how to provide training for senior leads, building on the wider recovery offer. In the interim, we know that mental health leads will want to consider their whole school/college approach to supporting students as they return to settings. The Wellbeing for Education Return training, which has been available during the COVID-19 outbreak, will support this by giving staff increased confidence to support their colleagues, children and young people, and local knowledge so that they know how and where to access appropriate specialist support where needed. Schools can also draw on existing guidance and evidence that we have already made available to support effective whole school approaches. This includes Public Health England guidance on whole school approaches and wellbeing measurement (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/promoting-children-and-young-peoples-emotional-health-and-wellbeing) and our Mental Health and Behaviour Guidance (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mental-health-and-behaviour-in-schools--2) and this advice aims to help schools to support pupils whose mental health problems manifest themselves in behaviour.

In addition, in September 2020, the department made health education compulsory for pupils in all state-funded schools. In health education, there is a strong focus on mental wellbeing; pupils will be taught how to recognise the early signs of mental wellbeing concerns and where and how to seek support, amongst many other mental health-related topics. We published the mental wellbeing module ahead of the other Relationships, Health and Sex Education modules to make sure that teachers felt confident to address the mental wellbeing needs of their pupils.


Written Question
Schools: Coronavirus
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Daisy Cooper

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the Government’s roadmap on easing lockdown restrictions announced on 22 February 2021, what assessment his Department made prior to that announcement of the potential merits of incorporating into the Government's policy on school reopening of the advice of the Eightieth SAGE meeting on Covid-19 on 11 February 2021 that A phased reopening would allow the effects to be assessed which would be particularly valuable if schools were one of the first things to reopen, as there will be more uncertainties in the early stages of releasing measures (e.g. around the impact of vaccines).

Answer (Nick Gibb)

At every stage since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, decisions have been informed by the scientific and medical evidence, both on the risks of COVID-19 infection, transmission, and illness, and on the known risks to children and young people not attending school and college, balancing public health and education considerations.

The overwhelming evidence is that the risk to children and young people from SARSCoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is low, but the risks to children and young people of being out of school and college are high and increase the longer restrictions on education are in force. Whilst schools and colleges can be places where transmission occurs, there is no strong evidence of them driving largescale community transmission. Rather, case rates within schools and colleges have been shown to reflect those in the local community, and risks are reduced further in such a controlled environment by having appropriate mitigations and systems of control in place. Based on the recent data from the Office for National Statistics, the risks to education staff are similar to those for most other occupations.

That is why the Government’s priority has been keeping education and nurseries fully open, with a consistent message that schools, colleges and nurseries should be considered last when implementing restrictions, and first when restrictions can be lifted. As such the Government has taken, and continues to take, other steps across society and the economy to manage the spread of the virus, to allow restrictions on education to be lifted.

The Government’s Roadmap is a step-by-step plan to ease restrictions in England cautiously, starting with schools and colleges, taking into consideration the scientific evidence, now published by Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-covid-19-scientific-evidence-supporting-the-uk-government-response. The Roadmap sets out indicative, “no earlier than” dates for the steps which are five weeks apart. These dates are wholly contingent on the data; before taking each further step, the Government will review the latest data on the impact of the previous step against four tests. This is a cautious approach to easing lockdown, which is guided by the data, in order to avoid a surge in cases which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS and claim more lives before people have the chance to receive a vaccine. This approach maximises the value in breaks in the easing of measures to allow this assessment and help maintain control, including around school holidays, which the Chief Medical Officer has said is a natural firebreak at Easter. Even as restrictions are lifted, adherence to the nonpharmaceutical interventions that are still in place to reduce transmission remains essential.


Written Question
Remote Education: Mobile Broadband
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Robert Halfon

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, for what reason mobile data increases are not available to young people over the age of 16 in sixth forms and further education colleges.

Answer (Gillian Keegan)

The Get Help with Technology (GHWT) service has been extended to provide support with devices and connectivity for disadvantaged 16-19 year olds. This forms part of a £400 million investment to help children and young people continue their education at home and access online social care services.

Schools with sixth form provision and further education providers are eligible to receive devices where they have students that are aged 16-19 who are in receipt of free meals, and where they have students aged 19 and over with an Education, Health and Care Plan who are also in receipt of free meals. All eligible providers were invited to order devices in January 2021. Over a million devices have now been dispatched to schools, trusts, local authorities and further education institutions since the start of the scheme.

Through the GHWT service, providers eligible to receive devices are also able to access support for connectivity for financially disadvantaged students where they do not have access to the internet at home.

The mobile data network offer has to date been focused on providing connectivity support to pupils in years 3-11 who have experienced disruption to their face-to-face education. The amount of free data provided will vary by operator and uplifts will be in place until the end of July 2021. However, we are working with mobile network operators to make this offer available for disadvantaged 16-19 year olds until the end of July 2021.

Currently,16-19 providers eligible for help via the GHWT service can access 4G wireless routers to provide connectivity support for financially disadvantaged learners without access to broadband at home.


Written Question
Employment Schemes: Equality
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Kate Green

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 10 February 2021 to Question 149748 on Employment Schemes: Equality, if he will publish those equalities impact assessments.

Answer (Gillian Keegan)

We have undertaken an assessment of the equalities impact of the Skills Bootcamps and level 3 adult offers.

Further detail of the policies, their equalities impact and ongoing work to support equality across both the Skills Bootcamps and level 3 adult offer will be published online in due course.


Written Question
Schools: Coronavirus
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Daisy Cooper

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the publication of the Government’s Roadmap out of Lockdown, if he will take steps to ensure that from 8 March 2021 school pupil transport will not carry pupils from more than one school.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

The Department has published guidance on transport to schools and other places of education to help those responsible for the provision of dedicated transport to put in place proportionate safeguards to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19. The guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transport-to-school-and-other-places-of-education-autumn-term-2020/transport-to-school-and-other-places-of-education-autumn-term-2020.

Dedicated transport to schools and other places of education often carries the same group of children or young people on a regular basis. They do not mix with the general public on those journeys which helps to limit the number of other people with whom they come into contact.

Those involved in the provision of home to school transport must do all that is reasonably practicable to maximise social distancing where possible and minimise the risk of transmission. What is practicable is likely to vary according to local circumstances.

Wherever possible it is recommended that children and young people from different schools do not travel at the same time or, if they do, the children from each school should sit together as group. However, the Department acknowledges that distancing and grouping may sometimes not be possible. Where this is the case, other measures become even more important such as increased cleaning of vehicles, washing of hands and opening windows for ventilation.


Written Question
Schools: Coronavirus
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Daisy Cooper

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the publication of the Government’s Roadmap out of Lockdown, if his Department will provide ventilation units for every classroom.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

At each stage of the Department's response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice. The Department has worked closely with other Government departments, including Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as stakeholders across the sector, to ensure that our policy is based on the latest scientific and medical advice, and to continue to develop comprehensive guidance based on the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’ and to understand the impact and effectiveness of these measures on staff, pupils and parents.

The Department also works closely with the NHS Track and Trace and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and following their research the Department issued guidance on keeping spaces well ventilated. There are a number of tools, beyond ventilation, to reduce airborne transmission of COVID-19 (including engineering interventions), and research on these technologies is ongoing.

The findings from all this developing work will, in due course, inform our guidance and standards for school buildings.

Current evidence recommends that the way to control COVID-19 is the same, even with the current new variants. The PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’ which have been in use throughout the COVID-19 outbreak set out in our published guidance, which includes ventilation, continue to be the right measures to take. These measures create an inherently safer environment for children, young people, and staff where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced. PHE keeps all these controls under review, based on the latest evidence. Schools therefore need to continue to implement these controls to the fullest extent. The guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.

Our guidance signposts to further advice from the health and safety executive on air conditioning and ventilation during the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance can be found here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/equipment-and-machinery/air-conditioning-and-ventilation.htm.


Written Question
Universities: Remote Education
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Robert Halfon

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to ensure that university students receive adequate IT device support to continue their education remotely during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Michelle Donelan)

The government is aware of the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 outbreak will have on some students.

We are making available an additional £50 million of hardship funding this financial year. In total, we have made £70 million of funding available for student hardship, given the £20 million made available to higher education (HE) providers in December 2020.

HE providers will have flexibility in how they distribute the funding to students, in a way that will best prioritise those in greatest need. Support can include assistance to help students access teaching remotely. The funding can be distributed to a wide population of students, including postgraduates (whether taught or research) and international students.

This money is in addition to the £256 million of Student Premium funding that HE providers are able draw on this academic year towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment.

We know that not all students will face financial hardship. The current measures aim to target support for students in greatest need and the government continues to monitor the situation going forward to look at what impact this funding is having.

The government has also invested over £400 million to help provide laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people so they can access education and social care services remotely. As part of this, we have provided devices for care leavers, including those who may be studying at university.

On 13 January 2021, I wrote to the Office for Students (OfS), the regulator for HE providers in England. I outlined government expectations of the HE sector: universities should maintain the quality and quantity of tuition and seek to ensure that all students, regardless of their background, have the resources to study remotely.

In June 2020, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, commissioned OfS chair Sir Michael Barber, to conduct a review of the shift toward digital teaching and learning in English HE since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. His report, published on 25 February 2021, is based on interviews, a call to evidence, roundtable discussions and surveys and includes ‘six actions’ university and college leaders can take for next academic year. Details of the ‘six actions’ can be found here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/gravity-assist-propelling-higher-education-towards-a-brighter-future/six-actions-for-2021-22/. The full report can be found here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/gravity-assist-propelling-higher-education-towards-a-brighter-future/.

HE providers must also continue to comply with their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010, ensuring that education and learning is accessible to all students. When making changes to the delivery of their courses, providers need to consider how to support all students, particularly the most vulnerable, to achieve successful academic and professional outcomes.


Written Question
Vocational Education
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Dan Jarvis

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to include (a) Mayoral Combined Authorities and (b) Local Enterprise Partnerships in the implementation of the reforms set out in the Skills for Jobs White Paper.

Answer (Gillian Keegan)

The Skills for Jobs White Paper sets out a number of reforms that will support people to get the skills our economy needs throughout their lives, wherever they live in the country. This is an aim shared by Mayoral Combined Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships for their communities.

Our reforms, including the introduction of new Local Skills Improvement Plans, will build on the work that Mayoral Combined Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships have done through their establishment of Skills Advisory Panels. We will work closely with all local areas when developing and trailblazing our reforms. In the case of Mayoral Combined Authorities, their responsibilities for delivering adult education functions will continue without change.


Written Question
Children: Day Care
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Daisy Cooper

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of extending the 30 hours of free childcare a week to full-time graduate students.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

30 hours free childcare is an entitlement for working parents of three and four-year-olds. It aims to help working parents with the costs of childcare so they can take up paid work if they want to or can work additional hours.

The Childcare Bill policy statement, published in December 2015, is clear that students will not qualify for 30 hours free childcare. However, students who undertake paid work in addition to their studies and meet the income requirements will be eligible for the additional hours. This means they do not have to physically work 16 hours a week but need to earn the equivalent of a week of 16 hours at national minimum wage or national living wage (currently just over £7,250 a year).

Students with children aged three and four will qualify for the universal 15 hours free childcare entitlement in England, regardless of the income or employment status of the parent, allowing them to access 15 hours per week of high-quality early education for their child.

Those undertaking a master’s degree are able to apply for a postgraduate master’s loan of up to £11,222 for help with course fees and living costs, which may include childcare.

Students starting a doctoral degree on or after 1 August 2020, can apply for a postgraduate doctoral loan of up to £26,445 which can also help with course fees and living costs, including childcare.

In cases where full-time students have additional needs that are not met through the student support system, support already available to them from their education institutions, they may be able to apply for help through Universal Credit. It remains the case that to be eligible for 85% reimbursement of childcare costs through Universal Credit Childcare a claimant must be in employment.

Further details on claiming Universal Credit, and Universal Credit Childcare, as a student can be found on GOV.UK at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/universal-credit-and-students.


Written Question
Students: Migrants
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Darren Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, for what reason the Student Loans Company is not permitted to support young people who have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK with access to student finance for the purposes of undertaking higher education courses.

Answer (Michelle Donelan)

Generally, to be eligible for student support a student must be resident in England and have ‘settled’ status or a recognised connection with the UK on the first day of the first academic year of the course and must have been resident in the UK and Islands (Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) for the 3 years prior to that date.

Student finance is, therefore, available to those persons who have indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK provided they meet the relevant residence and other requirements.

The Student Loans Company relies on information from the Home Office in relation to immigration matters when assessing eligibility.


Written Question
Nurseries: Coronavirus
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Yasmin Qureshi

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to support nurseries in Bolton to reduce transmission of covid-19; and what assessment he has made of the potential merits of prioritising nursery staff in the covid-19 vaccination rollout.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

We are grateful to early years staff as they continue to provide support to children and families during the period of national lockdown.

The department continues to work closely with other government departments throughout its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as stakeholders across the sector, to ensure that our policy is based on the latest scientific and medical advice, to continue to develop comprehensive guidance based on the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’, and to understand the impact and effectiveness of these measures on staff, children and parents.

As new evidence or data emerges, the department updates its advice accordingly to ensure that all our settings have the right safety measures in place. The latest guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures.

The ‘system of controls’ measures outlined in our guidance create an environment for children and staff where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced. Settings therefore need to continue to implement these controls to the fullest extent possible, including the new advice that face coverings are recommended in early years settings for staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise the government on which vaccine/s the UK should use and provide advice on who should be offered them. The JCVI will provide advice on the next phase of the vaccine rollout. The government is committed to offering every adult a dose of the vaccine by 31 July 2021.

We continue to work with the early years sector to understand how they can best be supported to ensure that sufficient safe, appropriate and affordable childcare is available for those who need it now, and for all families who need it in the longer term.


Written Question
Academic Freedom
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Andrew Gwynne

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on academic freedom.

Answer (Michelle Donelan)

Tougher legal measures to strengthen free speech and academic freedom at universities in England have been announced by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, on 16 February, to stamp out unlawful ‘silencing’ on campuses. The new measures set out in the February 2021 policy paper will ensure that our universities are places where free speech can thrive.

We engaged with other government departments on the policy paper prior to being laid in parliament. Officials and ministers will continue to work together to ensure that government commitments are met.


Written Question
Schools: Mental Health Services
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Dan Jarvis

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to support children’s mental health when schools reopen as covid-19 restrictions are eased.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

We know that the COVID-19 outbreak and the associated measures and restrictions, such as social distancing and school closures, will be impacting on the mental wellbeing of many people, including children and young people. The government has made student wellbeing and mental health a central part of our response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the support we have already put in place for schools, colleges and universities will be critical during this time.

The return to school for all pupils is being prioritised due to the significant and proven impact caused by being out of school, including on wellbeing. The support schools provide to their pupils as they return to face-to-face education should include time devoted to supporting wellbeing, which will play a fundamental part in supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing recovery. The expectations for schools in this regard are set out clearly in the main Department for Education guidance to schools which also signposts further support, available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.

We are also providing support and training to schools through the £8 million Wellbeing for Education Return programme, a Department for Education-led initiative alongside Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Higher Education England, Public Health England and key voluntary sector organisations. It is funding local experts to provide training, advice and resources for schools and further education providers to help support pupil and student, parent and carer, and staff wellbeing, resilience, and recovery in light of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown. Over 90% of local authority areas in England have reported they are delivering additional training and support into local schools and further education providers because of the Wellbeing for Education Return funding and have been continuing to do so remotely.

We have also put in place a £1 billion COVID-19 catch-up package with £650 million shared across early years, schools and 16-19 providers over the 2020/21 academic year to support education settings to put the right catch-up and pastoral support in place. The Education Endowment Foundation have published a COVID-19 support guide to support schools to direct this funding, which includes further information about interventions to support pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.

In addition to this, the return to school for all pupils from 8 March 2021 will be supported with a new £700 million package, which includes a new one-off Recovery Premium for state primary, secondary and special schools to use as they see best to support disadvantaged students. This will help schools to provide their disadvantaged pupils with a one-off boost to the support, both academic and pastoral, that has been proved most effective in helping them recover from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Department for Education and DHSC have convened a Mental Health in Education Action Group. The purpose of the action group is to look across the age ranges at the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on children, young people and staff in nurseries, schools, colleges and universities.

Furthermore, my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, appointed Dr Alex George (an A&E Doctor) as Youth Mental Health Ambassador to advise government and raise the profile of mental health education and wellbeing in schools, colleges and universities. As Youth Mental Health Ambassador, he will use his clinical expertise and personal experience to champion the government’s work on children’s and young people’s mental health and shape policy on improving support for young people in schools, colleges and universities.

In the long term, we remain committed to our joint green paper delivery programme with DHSC and NHS England, including introducing new mental health support teams for all schools and colleges, providing training for senior mental health leads in schools and colleges, and testing approaches to faster access to NHS specialist support.


Written Question
Schools: Mental Health Services
25 Feb 2021, midnight

Questioner: Lisa Cameron

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what training and support his Department plans to make available for members of staff in order for them to qualify for mental health support team roles in schools as proposed by the 2017 Green Paper, Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

We remain committed to our joint green paper delivery programme with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England, including introducing new mental health support teams for all schools and colleges, providing training for senior mental health leads in schools and colleges and testing approaches to faster access to NHS specialist support.

To expand access to mental health support for children and young people with emerging mental health issues, we have committed to establishing new Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) in 20% to 25% of the country by 2023, as part of the additional support for children and young people’s mental health in the NHS Long Term Plan. MHSTs are intended to provide early intervention on mild to moderate issues, as well as helping staff within a school or college setting to provide a ‘whole-school approach’ to mental health and wellbeing. Where already established, MHSTs are adapting their services to continue supporting children and young people remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak. The first 25 trailblazer sites, delivering 59 MHSTs (covering approximately 4% of the country) were announced in December 2018. A further 57 sites were confirmed in July 2019 and started developing 123 MHSTs during 2020. More teams have been commissioned to begin training in the academic year 2020/21. These teams will become operational once the training of new Education Mental Health Practitioners completes. Training will be completed as soon as circumstances allow, in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The department is also committed to provide training for senior mental health leads in all state-funded schools and colleges in England. The training will equip senior mental health leads with the knowledge to introduce or develop their whole school/college approach to positive mental health are identified and implement effective processes for ensuring that they receive appropriate support, both to treat specific issues and appropriate pastoral support to keep them engaged in education where they are receiving or have had specialist treatment. MHSTs will be able to support leads with whole school approaches.

The COVID-19 outbreak has delayed the delivery of specific training for senior leads, as we decided to prioritise providing bespoke training and support to meet the immediate challenges that all schools and colleges will face in supporting the wellbeing of children and young people during the COVID-19 outbreak. We are reviewing how to provide training for senior leads, building on the wider recovery offer. In the interim, we know that mental health leads will want to consider their whole school/college approach to supporting students as they return to settings. The Wellbeing for Education Return training, which has been available during the COVID-19 outbreak, will support this by giving staff increased confidence to support their colleagues, children and young people, and local knowledge so that they know how and where to access appropriate specialist support where needed. Schools can also draw on existing guidance and evidence that we have already made available to support effective whole school approaches. This includes Public Health England guidance on whole school approaches and wellbeing measurement (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/promoting-children-and-young-peoples-emotional-health-and-wellbeing) and our Mental Health and Behaviour Guidance (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mental-health-and-behaviour-in-schools--2) and this advice aims to help schools to support pupils whose mental health problems manifest themselves in behaviour.

In addition, in September 2020, the department made health education compulsory for pupils in all state-funded schools. In health education, there is a strong focus on mental wellbeing; pupils will be taught how to recognise the early signs of mental wellbeing concerns and where and how to seek support, amongst many other mental health-related topics. We published the mental wellbeing module ahead of the other Relationships, Health and Sex Education modules to make sure that teachers felt confident to address the mental wellbeing needs of their pupils.