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Written Question
Pre-school Education: Coronavirus
27 Jan 2021, 6:39 p.m.

Questioner: Rachael Maskell

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps is he taking to ensure that his Department's annual early years census will take account of children being absent from nursery settings as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

On 17 December 2020, the government announced a return to funding early years settings for the spring term on the basis of attendance, as measured by the January 2021 census. The early years census count is still going ahead as expected and the census guidance is unchanged. To support local authorities we have issued some technical advice on how that guidance can be applied this year.

In summary, children who are ill or self-isolating can be counted, as can those whose parents have temporarily withdrawn their children from open nurseries and childminders out of caution, and so long as the parent/guardian has not altered their parental declaration relating to expected hours with the provider.

Children should not be counted in the census where a setting has closed or restricted attendance, unless as a result of situations as set out in the supporting technical advice eg. staff sickness, COVID-19 isolation, staff shielding.


Written Question
Pupils: Mental Health
27 Jan 2021, 6:34 p.m.

Questioner: Robert Halfon

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how the Wellbeing for Education Return programme has (a) supported children since its introduction in September 2020 and (b) how the funding for that programme has been distributed to date by region.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

The department has worked with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Health Education England (HEE), Public Health England (PHE) and key voluntary sector organisations, to deliver Wellbeing for Education Return. This project, backed by £8m, has trained local experts to provide additional advice and resources for schools and colleges 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. It is intended to give education staff the confidence to support pupils and students, their parents, carers and their own colleagues, and know how and where to access appropriate specialist support where needed.

Wellbeing for Education Return funding was distributed to all local authority areas in England on 30 September 2020. Local authorities have been funded according to the number of state funded schools and colleges in their locality. Further details on allocations can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wellbeing-for-education-return-grant-s31-grant-determination-letter.

Local experts from 97% of England’s Local Authority areas have now been trained to deliver support and resources into schools and colleges.

Over 85% of local authority areas in England have reported that they are delivering additional training and support into local schools and colleges as a result of funding. Nationally, our information indicates that more than 15,000 education settings are being offered this additional training and support.

In recognition of the significant pressures on school and college staff, local areas are tailoring their support, and offering interactive training sessions and follow up support on key themes to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff and pupils in response to COVID-19.


Written Question
Schools: Mental Health Services
27 Jan 2021, 6:24 p.m.

Questioner: Robert Halfon

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made (a) of the number of schools without direct access to in-school counsellors to support children’s and young people’s mental health and well-being in schools and colleges and (b) how such provision varies by local authority.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

We do not collect regular information on the provision of counselling in schools or colleges for pupils and staff. Our most recent survey of mental health provision in schools and colleges published in 2017 found that 61% of schools and colleges (56% of primary schools, 84% of secondary schools and 93% of colleges) reported offering access to counselling service for their pupils.

Counselling can play a particularly effective role as part of a whole-school or college approach. Many schools already provide their pupils access to counselling support. It is important for schools and colleges to have the freedom to decide what support to offer to students and staff based on their particular needs and drawing on an evidence base of effective practice. This support can come from a number of sources, including counselling.

To support the provision of counselling support in schools, the department published a blueprint for school counselling services. This provides schools with practical, evidence-based advice, informed by schools and counselling experts, on how to deliver high quality school-based counselling. It also offers information on how to ensure that vulnerable children, including those who have special educational needs and disabilities, are looked after children or identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, who have a higher prevalence to mental illness, can access counselling provision. Further guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counselling-in-schools.

The government is investing £8 million in the new Wellbeing for Education Return programme which is funding expert advisers who will be able to train and support schools and colleges in every area of England and can make links to available local authority provision, including counselling. Alongside this, the department launched a £95,000 pilot led by the Education Support charity to provide online peer support and telephone counselling from experts to around 250 school leaders. The pilot will end in March 2021. The outcome of the pilot will inform any future wellbeing and mental health interventions for staff.

To increase support further in the long term, 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 linked to 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
27 Jan 2021, 6:24 p.m.

Questioner: Robert Halfon

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the availability of in-school counsellors to provide face-to-face mental health support for teachers and staff in schools and colleges.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

We do not collect regular information on the provision of counselling in schools or colleges for pupils and staff. Our most recent survey of mental health provision in schools and colleges published in 2017 found that 61% of schools and colleges (56% of primary schools, 84% of secondary schools and 93% of colleges) reported offering access to counselling service for their pupils.

Counselling can play a particularly effective role as part of a whole-school or college approach. Many schools already provide their pupils access to counselling support. It is important for schools and colleges to have the freedom to decide what support to offer to students and staff based on their particular needs and drawing on an evidence base of effective practice. This support can come from a number of sources, including counselling.

To support the provision of counselling support in schools, the department published a blueprint for school counselling services. This provides schools with practical, evidence-based advice, informed by schools and counselling experts, on how to deliver high quality school-based counselling. It also offers information on how to ensure that vulnerable children, including those who have special educational needs and disabilities, are looked after children or identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, who have a higher prevalence to mental illness, can access counselling provision. Further guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counselling-in-schools.

The government is investing £8 million in the new Wellbeing for Education Return programme which is funding expert advisers who will be able to train and support schools and colleges in every area of England and can make links to available local authority provision, including counselling. Alongside this, the department launched a £95,000 pilot led by the Education Support charity to provide online peer support and telephone counselling from experts to around 250 school leaders. The pilot will end in March 2021. The outcome of the pilot will inform any future wellbeing and mental health interventions for staff.

To increase support further in the long term, 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 linked to 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
Digital Technology
27 Jan 2021, 6:16 p.m.

Questioner: Dan Jarvis

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 progress on tackling the digital divide.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

The Department is in constant communication with colleagues at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on tackling the digital divide. The Department also plays an active role in the DCMS led “Digital Skills Partnership Computing in Schools” group. The Co-Chairs of this group have recently had a letter of support from my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, for their work on improving the value of digital skills and digital careers awareness.

In the immediate term, as part of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are 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.

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 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home.


Written Question
Holiday Play Schemes: Free School Meals
27 Jan 2021, 6:12 p.m.

Questioner: Catherine McKinnell

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 16 November 2020 to Question 114167, how much funding is planned to be allocated to each local authority in the North East from the Holiday Activities and Food programme in 2021.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

On 16 December, we wrote to all local authorities to inform them of their individual indicative allocation of funding for the Holiday Activities and Food programme 2021. We are working closely with colleagues from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to finalise grant determination documentation, which will be published on the GOV.UK website in due course.


Written Question
Teachers: Coronavirus
27 Jan 2021, 5:57 p.m.

Questioner: Dan Jarvis

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the number of supply teaching staff not enrolled on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on the recruitment and retention of teaching staff in the (a) 2020-21 and (b) 2021-22 academic years.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

The Department does not hold data on the number of supply teachers that have, or conversely have not, accessed support via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has released estimates of the number, and value, of claims made to the CJRS. This outlines the number of companies, and employees who have been supported by the CJRS by employment sector, including education. However, the statistical release does not provide data on specific job roles within a sector.

CJRS statistics can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-statistics-december-2020.

The Department does not hold data on the total number of supply teachers. Officials continue to engage with suppliers on the Department and Crown Commercial Service’s supply teacher framework to monitor demand and capacity.


Written Question
Remote Education: Computer Viruses
27 Jan 2021, 5:46 p.m.

Questioner: Wes Streeting

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, on what date his Department learned that laptops provided to schools by the Government were infected by the gamarue virus, and how they made this discovery.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

To date, the Department has received reports of the presence of a software virus on 33 laptops out of 800,000 devices provided to schools. The virus was detected as part of the setup of the device by the schools before they were passed to pupils.

The first notification of an issue was on 7 January 2021, with further notifications in the 3 weeks after, up to the 22 January. The windows laptops affected were ones where the school had chosen to set up the device themselves, rather than accept a Department for Education build.

In all known cases, the virus was automatically detected and removed immediately by the included antivirus software during the installation process.

The Department have been in constant contact with suppliers and relevant parties to understand and resolve this issue, and firmly believe this is a contained incident which we are dealing with at pace.

All devices without a Department for Education build are provided by the supplier from the point of manufacture directly to the school. The Department are reliant upon schools accepting the responsibility to install and configure any new devices in line with advice and guidance provided by both the Department and the National Cyber Security Centre.

In no circumstances should there be an occurrence of any child receiving a device that has not been securely and properly set up. Once the device is issued to a pupil, the ongoing risks associated with privacy, safeguarding and security of those devices and its users is entirely based upon how the schools and Local Authorities manage them.

The Department takes online safety and security extremely seriously. Any schools that have concerns about devices should contact the support desk at: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk.


Written Question
Remote Education: ICT
27 Jan 2021, 5:46 p.m.

Questioner: Wes Streeting

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what security checks his Department performs on laptops and other devices purchased from third parties before sending those devices to schools and local authorities as part of its Get Help with Technology programme.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

To date, the Department has received reports of the presence of a software virus on 33 laptops out of 800,000 devices provided to schools. The virus was detected as part of the setup of the device by the schools before they were passed to pupils.

The first notification of an issue was on 7 January 2021, with further notifications in the 3 weeks after, up to the 22 January. The windows laptops affected were ones where the school had chosen to set up the device themselves, rather than accept a Department for Education build.

In all known cases, the virus was automatically detected and removed immediately by the included antivirus software during the installation process.

The Department have been in constant contact with suppliers and relevant parties to understand and resolve this issue, and firmly believe this is a contained incident which we are dealing with at pace.

All devices without a Department for Education build are provided by the supplier from the point of manufacture directly to the school. The Department are reliant upon schools accepting the responsibility to install and configure any new devices in line with advice and guidance provided by both the Department and the National Cyber Security Centre.

In no circumstances should there be an occurrence of any child receiving a device that has not been securely and properly set up. Once the device is issued to a pupil, the ongoing risks associated with privacy, safeguarding and security of those devices and its users is entirely based upon how the schools and Local Authorities manage them.

The Department takes online safety and security extremely seriously. Any schools that have concerns about devices should contact the support desk at: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk.


Written Question
Remote Education: Computer Viruses
27 Jan 2021, 5:46 p.m.

Questioner: Wes Streeting

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many laptops or other devices supplied to schools and local Authorities by his Department, as part of the Get Help with Technology Programme, were infected with Gamarue malware.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

To date, the Department has received reports of the presence of a software virus on 33 laptops out of 800,000 devices provided to schools. The virus was detected as part of the setup of the device by the schools before they were passed to pupils.

The first notification of an issue was on 7 January 2021, with further notifications in the 3 weeks after, up to the 22 January. The windows laptops affected were ones where the school had chosen to set up the device themselves, rather than accept a Department for Education build.

In all known cases, the virus was automatically detected and removed immediately by the included antivirus software during the installation process.

The Department have been in constant contact with suppliers and relevant parties to understand and resolve this issue, and firmly believe this is a contained incident which we are dealing with at pace.

All devices without a Department for Education build are provided by the supplier from the point of manufacture directly to the school. The Department are reliant upon schools accepting the responsibility to install and configure any new devices in line with advice and guidance provided by both the Department and the National Cyber Security Centre.

In no circumstances should there be an occurrence of any child receiving a device that has not been securely and properly set up. Once the device is issued to a pupil, the ongoing risks associated with privacy, safeguarding and security of those devices and its users is entirely based upon how the schools and Local Authorities manage them.

The Department takes online safety and security extremely seriously. Any schools that have concerns about devices should contact the support desk at: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk.


Written Question
Remote Education: Computer Viruses
27 Jan 2021, 5:46 p.m.

Questioner: Wes Streeting

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, which company or companies supplied laptops to his Department, as part of the Get Help with Technology Programme, that were infected with Gamarue malware.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

To date, the Department has received reports of the presence of a software virus on 33 laptops out of 800,000 devices provided to schools. The virus was detected as part of the setup of the device by the schools before they were passed to pupils.

The first notification of an issue was on 7 January 2021, with further notifications in the 3 weeks after, up to the 22 January. The windows laptops affected were ones where the school had chosen to set up the device themselves, rather than accept a Department for Education build.

In all known cases, the virus was automatically detected and removed immediately by the included antivirus software during the installation process.

The Department have been in constant contact with suppliers and relevant parties to understand and resolve this issue, and firmly believe this is a contained incident which we are dealing with at pace.

All devices without a Department for Education build are provided by the supplier from the point of manufacture directly to the school. The Department are reliant upon schools accepting the responsibility to install and configure any new devices in line with advice and guidance provided by both the Department and the National Cyber Security Centre.

In no circumstances should there be an occurrence of any child receiving a device that has not been securely and properly set up. Once the device is issued to a pupil, the ongoing risks associated with privacy, safeguarding and security of those devices and its users is entirely based upon how the schools and Local Authorities manage them.

The Department takes online safety and security extremely seriously. Any schools that have concerns about devices should contact the support desk at: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk.


Written Question
Remote Education: Computer Viruses
27 Jan 2021, 5:46 p.m.

Questioner: Wes Streeting

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the risks posed by laptops infected with the gamarue virus provided by his Department to the (a) privacy, (b) safeguarding and (c) security of children, young people and their families using those laptops; and what assessment he has made of the potential risk of the transmission of that virus to other devices and households.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

To date, the Department has received reports of the presence of a software virus on 33 laptops out of 800,000 devices provided to schools. The virus was detected as part of the setup of the device by the schools before they were passed to pupils.

The first notification of an issue was on 7 January 2021, with further notifications in the 3 weeks after, up to the 22 January. The windows laptops affected were ones where the school had chosen to set up the device themselves, rather than accept a Department for Education build.

In all known cases, the virus was automatically detected and removed immediately by the included antivirus software during the installation process.

The Department have been in constant contact with suppliers and relevant parties to understand and resolve this issue, and firmly believe this is a contained incident which we are dealing with at pace.

All devices without a Department for Education build are provided by the supplier from the point of manufacture directly to the school. The Department are reliant upon schools accepting the responsibility to install and configure any new devices in line with advice and guidance provided by both the Department and the National Cyber Security Centre.

In no circumstances should there be an occurrence of any child receiving a device that has not been securely and properly set up. Once the device is issued to a pupil, the ongoing risks associated with privacy, safeguarding and security of those devices and its users is entirely based upon how the schools and Local Authorities manage them.

The Department takes online safety and security extremely seriously. Any schools that have concerns about devices should contact the support desk at: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk.


Written Question
Schools: Coronavirus
27 Jan 2021, 5:18 p.m.

Questioner: Alexander Stafford

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether schools will be required to contribute to the cost of mass asymptomatic testing from their own budgets.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

The Government will fund secondary schools and colleges that have remained open for costs relating to testing on site. We have published a workforce planning tool which illustrates the levels of funding available for school and colleges.

Primary schools will not receive additional funding to carry out testing. Primary school staff (including staff in schools-based nurseries and maintained nursery schools) will be supplied with at home Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test kits which they will be able to use before coming into work. The LFDs supplied do not require laboratory processing and can provide a quick result in up to an hour in a home setting. We are seeking to minimise the burden on primary schools in relation to processing testing. No further equipment or funding is therefore required for the administration of these tests. Funding is being provided for secondary schools, colleges, and special/alternative provision settings as we are asking them to establish testing sites on the school estate.


Written Question
Members: Correspondence
27 Jan 2021, 5:14 p.m.

Questioner: Kevan Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, when he plans to respond to the letter of 10 November 2020 from the hon. Member for North Durham on support for the school travel sector.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

I can confirm that a response has been sent to the letter dated 9 November 2020, from the right hon. Member for North Durham.


Written Question
Remote Education: ICT
27 Jan 2021, 5:08 p.m.

Questioner: Rachael Maskell

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of giving every school pupil at each Key Stage access to a laptop or desktop IT device and broadband for the future delivery of education.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

The Government is investing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care services, by securing 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people. This includes over 870,000 laptops and tablets that were delivered to schools, trusts and local authorities by 25 January.

The number of devices available to each school, trust and local authority is determined by their number of children eligible for Free School Meals. All schools, trusts and local authorities have now been given the opportunity to order their full current allocation of devices.

The Government is providing this significant injection of devices on top of an estimated 2.9 million laptops and tablets already owned by schools before the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. On 12 January, we announced that we will be providing a further 300,000 devices over the course of this term.

Figures on the number of devices delivered is available at: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data/2021-week-4. These figures are broken down by Local Authority and Academy Trust. Figures on delivery by constituency are not available.

The Get Help with Technology scheme will enable schools to support disadvantaged children in years 3-11 and aged 16-19 who do not have access to a laptop or tablet privately or through school. In the context of unprecedented global demand for laptops and tablets, the year groups were set following conversations with school leaders and on the basis that children in younger years would be unlikely to be working on a laptop or tablet independently.

Where pupils experience barriers to digital remote education, we expect schools to offer different forms of remote education such as printed resources or textbooks. This should be supplemented with other forms of communication to keep pupils on track or answer questions about work.

We have also partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data for the academic year to help disadvantaged children get online. We are grateful to EE, O2, Smarty, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile, and Vodafone. We continue to invite a range of mobile network providers to support the offer. We have also delivered 54,000 4G wireless routers for pupil and care leavers without connection at home.


Written Question
Remote Education: York
27 Jan 2021, 5:08 p.m.

Questioner: Rachael Maskell

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many laptops have been requested by City of York Council to enable pupils to access remote learning during the covid-19 outbreak; and how many of those laptops have been delivered.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

The Government is investing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care services, by securing 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people. This includes over 870,000 laptops and tablets that were delivered to schools, trusts and local authorities by 25 January.

The number of devices available to each school, trust and local authority is determined by their number of children eligible for Free School Meals. All schools, trusts and local authorities have now been given the opportunity to order their full current allocation of devices.

The Government is providing this significant injection of devices on top of an estimated 2.9 million laptops and tablets already owned by schools before the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. On 12 January, we announced that we will be providing a further 300,000 devices over the course of this term.

Figures on the number of devices delivered is available at: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data/2021-week-4. These figures are broken down by Local Authority and Academy Trust. Figures on delivery by constituency are not available.

The Get Help with Technology scheme will enable schools to support disadvantaged children in years 3-11 and aged 16-19 who do not have access to a laptop or tablet privately or through school. In the context of unprecedented global demand for laptops and tablets, the year groups were set following conversations with school leaders and on the basis that children in younger years would be unlikely to be working on a laptop or tablet independently.

Where pupils experience barriers to digital remote education, we expect schools to offer different forms of remote education such as printed resources or textbooks. This should be supplemented with other forms of communication to keep pupils on track or answer questions about work.

We have also partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data for the academic year to help disadvantaged children get online. We are grateful to EE, O2, Smarty, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile, and Vodafone. We continue to invite a range of mobile network providers to support the offer. We have also delivered 54,000 4G wireless routers for pupil and care leavers without connection at home.


Written Question
GCE A-level: Assessments
27 Jan 2021, 5:06 p.m.

Questioner: Janet Daby

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect of cancelling examinations due to the covid-19 outbreak on the mental health of A-level students; and what support he plans to provide to help those students cope with the pressure of studying during the January 2021 covid-19 lockdown period.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

The Government remains clear that exams are the fairest method to assess students. Given the further disruption, however, we cannot guarantee that all students will be able to sit their exams fairly this summer and GCSE, AS and A levels will not go ahead as planned. We have already confirmed our proposals that in summer 2021, students taking GCSE, AS and A levels regulated by Ofqual should be awarded grades based on an assessment by their teachers. To provide clarity to the sector as soon as possible, and to ensure that our approach is developed with the sector, Ofqual and the Department have launched a two-week consultation on how to fairly award grades for all students.

The Department has worked with our partners, the Department of Health and Social Care, Health Education England, Public Health England, and key voluntary sector organisations, to deliver Wellbeing for Education Return. This project, backed by £8 million, has trained local experts to provide additional advice and resources for schools and colleges 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. It will give staff the confidence to support students, their parents, carers, and their colleagues, and know how and where to access appropriate specialist support where needed.

Over 85% of local authority areas in England have told us how they are delivering additional training and support into local schools and further education providers as a result of the funding. Nationally, our information indicates that more than 15,000 schools and colleges are being offered additional training and support.

In recognition of the significant pressures on school and further education provider staff, local areas are tailoring their support, and offering interactive training sessions and follow up support on key themes to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff and pupils in response to COVID-19.


Written Question
Schools: Coronavirus
27 Jan 2021, 4:44 p.m.

Questioner: Grahame Morris

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will make it his policy to extend the availability of school attendance to the children of people who are not classed as key workers but are expected to by their employers to attend the workplace.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

During this period of national lockdown, schools should allow only vulnerable children and the children of critical workers to attend. All other pupils should not attend and should learn remotely. We have resisted restrictions on attendance at schools since the first lockdown but, in the face of the rapidly rising numbers of cases across the country and intense pressure on the NHS, we now need to use every lever at our disposal to reduce all our social contacts wherever possible. Limiting attendance is about supporting the reduction of the overall number of social contacts in our communities.

Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 and EU transition response include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors. The guidance for children of critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings sets out who is able to attend school to receive face-to-face education, in order to support these parents to provide vital services: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision. The document sets out the high-level role types, and the list in the guidance is not exhaustive, but it should offer sufficient information to help parents and carers to identify if their work falls under one of the umbrella groups.

We will continue to review the restrictions on schools and will ensure that children and young people return to face-to-face education as soon as possible.


Written Question
Lipreading: Coronavirus
27 Jan 2021, 4:26 p.m.

Questioner: Gill Furniss

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he plans to introduce guidance to schools and colleges on the use of transparent face coverings when teaching pupils and students who rely on lip-reading.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

In schools and colleges where year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults (staff and visitors) and pupils when moving around indoors, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Face coverings can make it more difficult to communicate with children with additional needs or children who may rely on lip reading or facial expressions for understanding. We expect staff to be sensitive to these needs when teaching and interacting with children.

As the Department’s guidance outlines, some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. This includes people 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 aiding someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate. The same legal exemptions that apply to the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport also apply in schools and colleges.

Based on current evidence and the measures that schools are already putting in place, such as the system of controls and consistent bubbles, face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom.

Children in primary schools do not need to wear a face covering and older children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities may be exempt from wearing them, depending on their need.

The Department’s guidance on face coverings can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-in-education/face-coverings-in-education.


Written Question
Pupils: Coronavirus
27 Jan 2021, 4:21 p.m.

Questioner: Navendu Mishra

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many primary aged pupils in Stockport were absent from school due to covid-19 in the Autumn term 2020.

Answer (Nick Gibb)

The Department collects daily attendance data from schools via the educational setting status form, which was set up to help the Government monitor the impact of COVID-19 on schools and colleges.

Data on reasons for pupil absence was collected from 12 October. The Department has published the number and proportion of pupils in attendance and the number and proportion of pupils absent for COVID-19 related reasons in primary schools in Stockport on each Thursday between 10 September and 17 December where available.

Data is given for Wednesday 16 December instead of Thursday 17 December due to a decrease in response rates on Thursday 17 December which makes estimates for this date less reliable. Data is not given for Thursday 22 and 29 October as this data is affected by half term. Data for Thursday 22 and 29 October and 17 December are published and available in the underlying data.

Local authority level figures are based on responding schools only. Response rates for primary schools in Stockport varied between 72% and 81% for the period of data provided.

The following absence reasons as reported daily by schools are included in our estimates for total pupils unable to attend school because of COVID-19: confirmed cases of COVID-19, suspected cases of COVID-19, self-isolation due to contact with a case inside or outside the school and pupils in schools closed for COVID-19 related reasons. This data is as reported directly by schools via the Department for Education’s daily education settings survey. It is not the primary source of data on infection, incidence, and COVID-19 cases overall.

Total pupils unable to attend school because of COVID-19 is reported as a range to account for possible double counting.

The information regarding attendance statistics can be found here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/data-tables/permalink/9b3646d7-4b40-4cea-a826-a389dd0c7ded.


Written Question
Apprentices: Grants
27 Jan 2021, 1:27 p.m.

Questioner: Alison McGovern

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many grants have been awarded to firms to take on an apprenticeship since the most recent Spending Review; and in which sectors those grants have been allocated.

Answer (Gillian Keegan)

Apprenticeships will be more important than ever in helping businesses to recruit the right people and develop the skills they need to recover and grow. To help employers offer new apprenticeships, they are now able to claim £2,000 for every new apprentice they hire under the age of 25, in recognition of the particular impacts of COVID-19 on the employment prospects of this group, and £1,500 for new apprentices aged 25 and over. These incentive payments were announced as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs in July 2020 and the extension of the scheme (to the end of March 2021) was announced in the November Spending Review. Employers have been able to register to claim the incentive since 1 September 2020.

It is encouraging that employers continue to see the value apprentices can bring to their businesses; as of 1 December 2020 employers had so far claimed incentive payments for 11,520 apprentices. We do not hold figures for incentive payments by industry sector.

Updated figures will be published in the ‘Apprenticeships and traineeships: January 2021’ statistics publication on 28 January 2021, available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/announcements/apprenticeships-and-traineeships-january-2021.


Written Question
Work Experience: Grants
27 Jan 2021, 1:26 p.m.

Questioner: Alison McGovern

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many grants have been awarded to firms to support trainees to gain work experience since the Spending Review 2020.

Answer (Gillian Keegan)

We are supporting the largest-ever expansion of traineeships, providing an additional 30,000 places in 2020/21 academic year, to ensure that more young people have access to high-quality training. To encourage this, we have introduced £1000 incentive payments for employers who offer traineeship work placement opportunities between 1 September 2020 and 31 July 2021. The new incentive payment will enable employers to apply for £1000 per learner, for up to 10 learners per region, in each of the 9 regions of England.

From 27 January, employers can register to claim this incentive payment and as such, we do not yet have data on the take-up of incentive payments. Employers will be able to claim the incentive payment for all completed traineeship work experience placements that take place between the 1 September 2020 and 31 July 2021 even if the traineeship started before the 1 September 2020. We will monitor the take-up of the new payments and will assess their impact on traineeships starts to ensure traineeships continue to provide the extra support required by young people for them to progress into work or onto an apprenticeship.


Written Question
Barnardo's: Coronavirus
27 Jan 2021, 12:42 p.m.

Questioner: Tulip Siddiq

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to extend Government funding for Barnardo’s See, Hear, Respond programme after March 2021.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

See, Hear, Respond was set up as a short-term response to address the specific support needs of children and young people due to the sudden and unpredictable impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and national restrictions. The government recognises the vital role that it has played in supporting over 45,000 vulnerable children, young people and families.

The current contract is due to end at the end of March 2021. The government continues to work closely with local authorities, the third sector and charity partners to understand the needs of local communities. It will keep under review any further measures that are necessary to support vulnerable children and young people.


Written Question
Overseas Students: Coronavirus
27 Jan 2021, 12:18 p.m.

Questioner: Yasmin Qureshi

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what support he is providing to international students at UK universities during the global pandemic.

Answer (Michelle Donelan)

The government has worked closely with the higher education sector to ensure existing rules and processes are as flexible as possible, so that international students wanting to study at UK universities remotely and/or in person, where appropriate under the current circumstances, can do so and are appropriately supported. This includes the ability to engage via distance/blended learning for the duration of the 2020/21 academic year, provided students intend to transition to face-to-face learning as soon as circumstances allow.

The government has already worked closely with the Office for Students (OfS) to help clarify that providers can draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Providers can use the funding, worth around £256 million for the 2020/21 academic year, towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment, and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans. We are also currently making available up to £20 million of hardship funding to support those that need it most, particularly disadvantaged students.

We have also worked with the OfS to provide Student Space, which has been funded up to £3 million by the OfS. Student Space is a mental health and wellbeing platform that aims to bridge any gaps in support for students - including international - arising from this unprecedented situation and is designed to work alongside existing services.

The UK was one of the first countries to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by introducing comprehensive immigration flexibility for international students and staff, and the government has implemented several concessions to assist visa holders in the UK who have been impacted by global travel and health restrictions. This has included offering extensions of visas for those whose leave expired and relaxing the rules on visa switching in the UK, as well as confirming that existing international students who have been studying by distance/blended learning will remain eligible to apply for the new Graduate route, provided they are in the UK by 6 April 2021 and meet the other requirements of the route. In December, the government also confirmed that students commencing a one-year Master’s programme in January 2021 will remain eligible for the Graduate route, even if they are studying remotely, provided they enter the UK before 27 September 2021 and complete the final semester of their studies in the UK.


Written Question
English Language: Education
27 Jan 2021, noon

Questioner: Janet Daby

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what support he is providing to institutions that teach English as a second language (ESOL) during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Gillian Keegan)

We understand the challenges faced by further education providers and will continue to work with the sector to establish the best way to support students to make up for the disruption due to COVID-19. It is our ambition that all students have the chance to make up for lost education.

We support English for speakers of other languages courses as part of our wider effort to improve adult literacy in England through the £1.34 billion Adult Education Budget (AEB). We have changed the AEB Funding Rules for the 2020-21 academic year to enable providers to use their Learner Support funds to purchase IT devices for learners aged 19 and over, and to help them meet learners’ IT connectivity costs, where these costs are a barrier to accessing or continuing in their training. In areas where the AEB has been devolved, Mayoral Combined Authorities and the Greater London Authority are responsible for considering any provider flexibilities in their areas.