The Education Secretary rightly stated that it would not be acceptable for children to face greater restrictions than the rest of society, meaning that from August 16 those under the age of 18 will no longer be required to self-isolate for 10 days if they are identified as a close contact of a positive Covid case and will instead be advised to take a test.
Given that currently there are 471,000 children self-isolating due to a possible contact with a Covid case, in theory, the move should bring about a greater level of normality in the autumn term.
But Mr Williamson singularly failed to address a central point made by Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green; the spread of the Delta variant means there are currently thousands more pupils not at school because they have a confirmed or suspected case of Covid. The current figures state 62,000 young people are in this position. Should that situation be repeated or exacerbated in the autumn term, their education will obviously be considerably affected – meaning home schooling will be regularly required, for those well enough to participate.
Mr Williamson’s bemusing response was to claim his opposite number simply had a “sense of disappointment” about the UK not being part of the EU vaccination programme – a riposte not only empty of useful information but also missing out the fact that under-18s are not currently being vaccinated and therefore remain at considerable risk of catching Covid both now and in the next school year.
Children, teachers and parents deserve better from the Education Secretary.