On Monday, the Government announced the roadmap out of the current restrictions. As promised, schools will be thing first thing to re-open, with pupils returning on the 8th March.

As I have mentioned previously, the pandemic has been incredibly difficult on young people. While it is hugely positive that schools are returning in a couple of weeks, it will still be a challenge for young people to catch up on the learning they missed out on. As such, the Government announced this week a £700 million package of support focused on tutoring, supporting development in early years settings and summer provision for those who need it the most.

The new funding will include a new one-off £302 million Recovery Premium for state primary and secondary schools, with the average primary school receiving around £6,000 extra, and the average secondary school around £22,000. This will allow schools to boost their summer provision by laying on additional clubs and activities, or evidence-based approaches for supporting the most disadvantaged pupils from September.

£200 million from the £300 million announced by the Prime Minister in January will expand our successful tutoring programmes. This will fund a £83 million expansion of the National Tutoring Programme for primary and secondary schools; a £102 million extension of the 16-19 Tuition Fund to support students in English, Maths and other vocational and academic subjects; and £18 million funding to support language development in early years.

Moreover, £200 million, including the final £100 million from the Prime Minister’s announcement, will be available to secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools that are targeted based on pupils’ needs. This will come alongside wider support funded through our Holiday Activities and Food Programme.

In addition to this, Oak National Academy will be providing a range of online resources over the summer term and summer holidays to ensure that pupils are prepared for the next academic year.

I know that many students and parents will also be eager to know how exam grades will be awarded this year. Yesterday, the Government confirmed that students will receive grades awarded and determined by teachers, with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught.

Fairness and flexibility are at the heart of the Government’s plans to ensure that young people get to the next stage of their education or training. Teachers will be able to draw on a range of evidence when determining grades, including the optional use of questions provided by exam boards, as well as mock exams, coursework, or other work completed as part of a pupil’s course, such as essays or in-class tests. No algorithm will be used.

With schools set to re-open, I know we are all very grateful for the work of the teachers and support staff in our local schools, especially during these unprecedented times.

I very much welcomed yesterday’s announcement of the UK’s introduction of E10 petrol which will contain up to 10% ethanol – doubling the current provision. Blending renewable fuels like bioethanol into existing transport fuels reduces CO2 emissions. This (simple) change could mean the equivalent of taking around 350,000 cars off the road each year, thereby helping support our ambitions to reach net zero by 2050. This change will also support our farmers and the British ethanol industry so a real win, win.