Boris Johnson makes plea to parents to 'get children back into classrooms'

23 August 2020, 22:30

Many pupils in England have not been to class since March
Many pupils in England have not been to class since March. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Boris Johnson has issued a direct appeal to parents up and down the country to send their children back to school when they reopen next week.

The Prime Minister's comments come after Chief Medical Officers and Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales warned about the longterm damage of children not returning to school.

They said "very few, if any" children and teenagers would come to long-term harm from the virus solely by attending school, while there was a "certainty" of harm from not returning.

Professor Chris Whitty pointed out that the risk of children catching Covid-19 and developing serious complications is small whereas the risk of not returning is "overwhelming".

Many pupils in England have not been to class since March when schools were closed except to look after vulnerable children and those of keyworkers.

Schools in Scotland reopened earlier this month, while those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to welcome all pupils from the beginning of September.

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Mr Johnson said: "I have previously spoken about the moral duty to reopen schools to all pupils safely, and I would like to thank the school staff who have spent the summer months making classrooms Covid-secure in preparation for a full return in September.

"We have always been guided by our scientific and medical experts, and we now know far more about coronavirus than we did earlier this year.

"As the Chief Medical Officer has said, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small and it is far more damaging for a child's development and their health and wellbeing to be away from school any longer.

"This is why it's vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends. Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school."

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary, of the National Education Union, said schools and colleges needed to know what should happen if an outbreak of the virus occurs in individual schools or through national, regional or local spikes.

It came after a report from Public Health England - which is due to be axed over its Covid-19 response - which said 30 outbreaks of coronavirus in English schools after they reopened.

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He said the Government needed to issue guidance on moving to teaching rotas or limited openings and to hire more teachers to allow education to continue if infection rates rise.

Mr Courtney added: "Government advice needs to cover the possible self-isolation of bubbles and, in extremis, moving to rotas or to more limited opening.

"It needs to cover advice to heads about the protections needed for staff in high-risk categories if infection rates rise.

"Government should be employing more teachers and seeking extra teaching spaces to allow education to continue in a Covid-secure manner if infections rise."