Labour urges Gavin Williamson to set out a 'credible' plan to reopen schools

28 January 2021, 22:34

Labour is urging the Education Secretary to set out a "credible" plan to reopen schools
Labour is urging the Education Secretary to set out a "credible" plan to reopen schools. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Labour is urging the Education Secretary to set out a "credible" plan to reopen schools to all pupils after their reopening was pushed back to at least March.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he hopes to begin easing the third national lockdown in England by reopening classrooms from March 8 at the earliest.

But the Government is yet to provide further information on whether all year groups will return at the same time or if every region will return simultaneously.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green wrote to Gavin Williamson urging him on Friday to set out a plan on the return to classrooms.

"We need a national effort to get all children back into school with a credible delivery plan from the Government which includes vaccinating school staff over half term and sets out measures to help make schools Covid-secure," she added in a statement.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green wrote to Gavin Williamson urging him on Friday to set out a plan on the return to classrooms
Shadow education secretary Kate Green wrote to Gavin Williamson urging him on Friday to set out a plan on the return to classrooms. Picture: PA

"The Government must finally give parents, pupils and school staff clarity about their return to school."

Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, Conservative former minister Harriett Baldwin earlier insisted school reopening should begin in a staggered way before March 8.

During a debate on international education, Ms Baldwin said: "I never thought we would be marking UN International Day of Education at a time when our own schools in the UK are closed to so many children.

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"I share the Government's aspiration to reopen our schools as soon as possible and would welcome an even earlier date than March 8 by reopening classes in a staged way, even for part of the day with reception to year 2 back first and then gradually adding additional classes."

Mr Johnson has repeatedly insisted schools are safe and "Covid-secure" but said they increase the spread of coronavirus within the community.

He told a Downing Street press conference earlier this week that the new reopening date was the "earliest" date that was "sensible" and safe for children to go back.

He said that "the problem is not that schools are unsafe - teachers and headteachers have worked heroically to make sure they are safe, they are Covid-secure."

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It is currently unclear whether all students will return from the 8 March, or whether it will be phased in by region and age group.

Mr Johnson told the press briefing: "The problem is that by definition schools bring many households together and that contributes to the spread of the virus within the community and drives up the R."