Prime Minister Boris Johnson said reopening schools in September was a social, economic and moral imperative and insisted they would be able to operate safely despite the ongoing threat from the pandemic.
His comments follow a study earlier this month which warned that Britain risks a second wave of Covid-19 this winter twice as large as the initial outbreak if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Johnson said restarting schools was a national priority.
Schools would be the last places to close in future local lockdowns, he was quoted by another newspaper as telling a meeting on Thursday.
Schools in England closed in March during a national lockdown, except for the children of key workers, and reopened in June for a small number of pupils.
The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September in what Johnson has called a “national priority”.
“Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible,” Johnson wrote.
The economic costs for parents who cannot work if schools are shut are spiralling, and the country faces big problems if children miss out on education, the prime minister warned.
“This pandemic isn’t over, and the last thing any of us can afford to do is become complacent. But now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so,” he wrote.
The rallying cry will further crank up the political pressure over the issue, which is fast becoming a totemic test of the government’s ability to reboot the economy and move the country safely out of lockdown.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported that he has ordered a public relations campaign to ensure schools open on time and told the meeting last week that they should be the last places to close behind restaurants and shops
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has come under intense pressure as critics warned that the lay-off was widening the educational divide between rich and poor, and preventing many parents from returning to the workplace.
Johnson’s words come after Dr Mary Bousted, head of the National Education Union, urged schools to ignore ‘threatening noises’ from the government and refuse to reopen if they feel it is unsafe.
School holidays end in early September, when teaching is due to begin for all levels.
Last week, however, University College London scientists warned that the country’s tracing system is insufficiently developed to safely ensure a widespread return to schools.
Britain, with more than 46,500 deaths due to the novel coronavirus, is the worst-affected country in western Europe.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
Sunak scraps budget, readies support to fight Covid crisis
Navalny discharged from hospital, eyes full recovery
Robots target coronavirus with ultraviolet light at London train station
Spain bans small sailboats after killer whale attacks
Bulgaria expels two Russian diplomats accused of spying
Paris to ban gatherings of more than 10 people — BFM TV
EU summit postponed over coronavirus case
Largest nuclear icebreaker sets sail
Govt unveils virus curbs ‘likely to last six months’