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Boris Johnson will set out ‘comprehensive’ plan for school reopenings next week

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Prime minister Boris Johnson has promised he will set out a “comprehensive plan” next week to explain how “we can get our children back to school”.

Johnson, speaking at the daily briefing today, said that “for the first time we are past the peak of this disease. We’re on the downward slope.”

He added: “I will be setting out a comprehensive plan next week to explain how we can get our economy moving, how we can get our children back to school, back into childcare and third how we can travel to work and make life in the work place safer.”

It comes as education secretary Gavin Williamson said pupils are expected to return to school “in phases”. But he reiterated to the education select committee that no date for reopening had been set.

Schools have been closed by the Covid-19 outbreak since March 20 to all but a small number of vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

Data released by the Department for Education this week shows attendance rose to 1.9 per cent (177,000 pupils) last Wednesday, following rates as low as 0.9 per cent during the Easter holidays.

Reports about the end of social distancing and conflicting messages in the press about the lockdown have increased pressure on the government.

Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, said he was concerned about growing inequalities between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers.

A research review by academics at the University of Exeter and London School of Economics found school closures could leave disadvantaged children with a “learning loss” of up to six months. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, backed by 55 MPs and peers, has called for a “catch-up premium” for disadvantaged pupils once the lockdown lifts.

However, unions say schools must not reopen until it is safe.

It follows warnings from Professor Jonathan Van Tam, the government deputy chief medical officer, that it would be “very difficult” to maintain social distancing of young pupils.

A YouGov poll revealed that 44 per cent of teachers were stressed and anxious about what might happen during the summer term, while 46 per cent were worried about the new school year.

Earlier this week the government’s top medical expert warned that reopening schools too early could increase the spread of infection.

Professor Chris Whitty said that although school closures were “only one” of the government’s measures, it still had an impact on the infection rate or “R-value” of the virus.

“If you close schools, the R goes down. It’s part of the collection of things that were done in March to try to pull the R from where it was, near 3, to where it is now, below 1.

“It’s only one of [the measures]. If you did it on its own it wouldn’t be enough, but if you stop doing it, you would actually lose some of the benefit that we’ve currently got.”

 



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7 Comments

  1. He said the plans will show how “we can work to suppress the disease and at the same time restart the economy”.

    Because that’s what getting children back to school is all about: restarting the economy.

    I hope that the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of staff and children is at least a feature of this plan.

    • Dead economy and closed society also figures prominently in the “physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of staff and children” you nitwit simpleton.

  2. As a leadership team we have sized up our secondary school this week and to comply with the social distancing element we would only be able to have class sizes of 6 in classrooms in a school with over 190 in a year group. We are a PSB school and size is a premium!

  3. Mary Watkiss

    As a parent to an autistic nearly 5 year old I’m deeply concerned about getting children back to school to “kick start the economy” our children should be top priority and staying alive for them! I will REFUSE to send my child back to school until I can be sure my Son, his peers and his teachers and other school staff are safe. I mean your not going to get a typical 4/5 year old to stick to social distancing let alone a child with additional needs. Common sense needs to be applied. If the government want to kickstart the economy use their wages not my child!

  4. Claire

    Most countries of the world fully closed schools, including those we are watching as they re-open. Our schools were open to the children of keyworkers. The other children have been shielding for almost six weeks now so how is schools opening going to work if these two groups are then mixed (albeit as socially distanced as schools can allow & from pictures I have seen from local schools not very well), without any child who may be a carrier/asymptomatic due to the nature of their parent’s profession passing any infection they may have to ours to bring home to their loved ones even if they don’t become ill themselves? We all know children don’t wash hands well even if told, there is the odd nose picker and those who won’t cover their face when coughing. Do the government know just how many times our poor teachers will have to clean desks, pens, computer keyboards, scissors, door handles between pupils rotation or even between children touching them if it’s betwen a keyworker and non-keyworker child if this idea is to work? I know transition times between schools is worrying, but this could be done with just their year group during the last week of August, maybe then, the schools could re-start with confidence rather than fear in September. If they are worried about vulnerable children, why was there such a poor uptake when these were offered places through lockdown? Answer – Because, it doesn’t matter that statistics say children are less affected by this virus, even if your child is classed as vulnerable and can stay at school, the major instinct of a good parent is not to put your child in a potentially dangerous situation.

  5. Elwyn Thomas

    I wonder how much attention is going to be given to the transition of children, young people and staff back into school, in terms of providing for their emotional and mental health needs? I have not yet seen any information from the government about this, and I fear that there will be an expectation that it will simply be a case of back to normal, with an emphasis on the academic curriculum, rather than a more emotional-based curriculum, and appropriate support for staff.