Saturday 16 May 2020

It Will Be Safe For Children To Go Back To School On June 1 As Pupils And Their Families Will Get Free Coronavirus Track-And Trace Tests And Be Put Into Protective ‘Class Bubbles’

Schools will throw a 'protective bubble' around young pupils, Gavin Williamson vowed today as he attempted to outflank furious teaching unions and reopen classrooms next month.
The Education Secretary attempted to pile pressure on opponents of his plans tonight  as he warned of the dire 'consequences if children did not start returning to school.
He made a blunt appeal to the emotions of parents tonight as he insisted planning can begin to reopen classrooms from in little more than a fortnight.
Outlining his plans for reception, year 1 and 6 - as well as years 10 and 12 - to return from June 1, he insisted 'they stand to lose more by staying away from school'.
He revealed that those who return, as well as their parents, will join teachers in being eligible for free coronavirus tests, as he outlined measures schools will take avoid a surge in the killer disease. 

They include small classes and keeping children in small socially-distanced groups, with Mr Williamson saying: 'We are creating a protective bubble around them, reducing the amount of mixing and making sure that these small groups stay together, almost like a family within a classroom.'
Asked about testing and tracing, Mr Williamson added: 'School staff can already be tested for the virus, but from the first of June we'll extend that to cover children and their families if any of them develop symptoms.
'Together these measures will create an inherently safer system where the risk of transmission is substantially reduced for children, their teachers and also their families.'
However, concerns have been raised over the track and trace regime amid fears there are not enough staff to run it alongside a smartphone app. 
It was the latest development in a boiling row between ministers, trade unions and local authorities over the safety of sending children back to school.
Hartlepool in County Durham joined Liverpool this morning in saying it would ignore the Government's plan to let some primary school pupils back to the school from June 1.
And the doctor's union added its weight to the opposition, saying teachers representatives are 'absolutely right' to argue it is unsafe for schools to open next month.
Britain today recorded another 468 coronavirus deaths on the first Saturday since the draconian lockdown was eased, taking the UK's official fatality toll to 34,466. 
But at tonight's press conference, Mr Williamson said: 'There is a consequence to this, the longer that schools are closed the more that children miss out.
'Teachers know that there are children out there that have not spoken or played with another child their own age for the last two months.
'They know there are children from difficult or very unhappy homes for whom school is the happiest moment in their week, and it's also the safest place for them to be.' 
Earlier unions were warned children cannot wait for a coronavirus vaccine to be produced before returning to school, warring teaching unions and ministers were warned today. 
Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield demanded an end to 'squabbling', saying children were being harmed by the continued closure and they would have to return at some point - even if no cure is found.
She told Sky: 'We cannot afford to wait for a vaccine, which may never arrive, before children are back in school.'
And speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning she added: 'I've looked on somewhat with despair in the last week and a half as the debate has become more and more polarised. It does seem to have descended into very entrenched views.
'My worry within all is that the needs of children and the best interests of children are disappearing from view. 

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