Gavin Williamson promises more guidance on school closures and exams

The education secretary has moved to quell concerns over how school closures will affect students and parents.

Gavin Williamson said the government will issue guidance on 20 March on how pupils unable to sit their GCSEs and A-levels because of the school closures will be awarded their grades.

A list of the key workers whose children can still go to school will also be released later, he said.

On 18 March, prime minister Boris Johnson announced school closures across the UK but promised the children of NHS and police workers and supermarket delivery drivers would still be able to attend, as would vulnerable children.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 19 March, Williamson said there will be a “proper and fair system” of appeal for students who are unhappy with the results they are given as GCSEs and A-levels are cancelled.

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He said: “We will be doing everything we can do to make sure they get their results in August as they will be hoping to, but we can’t predict as to how they are going to unfold.

“It is absolutely vital for me for those children who have put so much work into all their learning over these years working up to their GCSEs and A-levels to get their results, but also making sure that we have a proper and fair system if they dispute that, if they are not content with it, there is some mechanism for them to have redress.”

Universities UK chief executive Alistair Jarvis said: “If an appropriate way can be found to assess students, perhaps a combination of teacher assessments and assignment works that’s already done, then awards could be granted this summer.

“This would allow students to get their grades and the university admission process to go ahead this summer.”

It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock tables the Emergency Coronavirus Bill setting out measures aimed at slowing the spread and supporting the NHS and workers.

The legislation will be presented as the Army prepares to help out in the crisis and Londoners face the prospect of greater restrictions, with the capital suffering a faster spread of Covid-19.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

So far, 104 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK and tens of thousands of people are thought to be infected.

There are currently no plans to shut down bars and restaurants and order people off the streets.

Earlier, former prime minister Gordon Brown urged people to come together. He said: “This is a global problem – it’s not just a national problem – it needs global action and not simply national action.

“We’ve had too much of America first, India first, China first, we have had too much of this populist nationalism.

“We’re finding that we’re connected whether we like it or not, we’re finding that we depend on each other whether we like it or not, and I think people have got to put aside the differences they have and international co-operation is absolutely vital to this.”

He also urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to do “considerably more” to protect people’s jobs by the weekend.

“If families don’t have income protection there’s lots of other consequences: people try to work if they are sick, people put themselves at risk”, Brown said.

English schools will shut their gates on 20 March until further notice, as will nurseries, colleges and childminders.

In Scotland and Wales, all schools will close by 20 March. A decision on whether exams will sit in Scotland has not yet been taken.

Schools in Northern Ireland will also shut and it is expected pupils will not sit summer exams.

Coronavirus-related deaths in the UK
(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, Transport for London has announced up to 40 Tube stations will be closed on 19 March and a reduced service will run on the rails from 20 March.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned Londoners they should not be travelling unless they “really, really have to”, but he insisted the network must remain open to aid front-line health workers.

Elsewhere, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said he will lead a national broadcast as the Church of England responds to the challenge of becoming a “different sort of church”.

In China, no new cases transmitted between people in the country have been reported for the first time since the virus emerged there in late December. But cases have been reported from travellers returning home to China.

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