We are clear that schools have a duty to provide remote education for state-funded children who are unable to attend school due to coronavirus. I gave a direction that placed a legal duty to provide remote education in those circumstances. That has been in effect since 22 October 2020.
We very much are, and we are encouraging schools with teachers who are not in a position to be in the classroom, to ensure and support online learning straight into children’s homes. It is absolutely vital we do so. As we see more and more testing becoming available, we can release staff so they can be back in the classroom supporting the amazing work that is already going on there.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. We have a good Secretary of State already.
Last week, The Sunday Times reported that a record 600,000 children were absent from class due to covid-related reasons. We know that around the country sending pupils home has, sadly, become more commonplace. It is right that exams in some form or another take place next year, but will my right hon. Friend set out the measures he is taking to ensure there is an absolute level playing field for those left behind during the coronavirus outbreak, as well as those who are sent home to self-isolate, so they have as fair a chance as possible in their exams as every other pupil?
What all the evidence points to is that exams are the best and fairest way to ensure that children, especially children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and children from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, get the best possible grades. What is so important is that we deliver fairness for all youngsters right across the board. We have already announced a package of measures to push back the date when exams will take place, so people can catch up on lost learning. We have also announced a £1 billion package to support schools to deliver extra assistance for those youngsters. We will announce further measures to ensure absolute fairness in our exam system, so that young people have the best opportunity to prove themselves when they have the opportunity to take their exams.