Government accused of having 'no plan' over schools reopening

11 June 2020, 11:55

The Government has been accused of having 'no plan' over schools reopening
The Government has been accused of having 'no plan' over schools reopening. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Shadow Commons leader has accused the Government of having "no plan" for the re-opening of schools.

Speaking in the Commons during the same week the Health Secretary Matt Hancock hinted secondary schools across England might not fully reopen until later than September despite saying coronavirus is "in retreat" across the UK.

Valerie Vaz said: "And speaking of the Cabinet, we see that zoos are opening next week but the Secretary of State has no plan for the reopening of schools."

In response to Ms Vaz's call for a statement from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, Mr Rees-Mogg said: "The Secretary of State was here on Tuesday to make a statement with regard to what is happening with schools, but it is an issue we are all facing as to how things reopen in a way that protects safety and health."

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At the Downing Street news briefing on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said the Government had been forced to move "slower than we would have liked in some areas", including in reopening schools.

He said: "It is because the rate of infection is not quite low enough and because we are not able to change our social distancing advice, including smaller class sizes in schools, that we are not proceeding with our ambition to bring back all primary pupils at least for some weeks before the summer holidays.

"We're going to get all schools back in September if we possibly can .. but it's going to be a big summer of catch up.

"We're going to keep making sure that kids get the remedial help that they need for the stuff that they've missed for months and months to come so that they genuinely make up for lost time."

The PM rejected suggestions education had not been a priority, saying: "There are plenty of other EU countries that are not getting primary schools back at all or until September.

Earlier, Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt said the Government was: "Determined to get the UK economy up and running again including the hospitality sector and our schools reopened."

Answering a question from Tory Sir Desmond Swayne who called for the two-metre social distance rule to be reduced.
He told MPs in the Commons: "Avoid a damaging second spike to our economy - isn't a yard more than sufficient?"

"Research published in The Lancet last week showed that a physical distance of at least one metre, or if Sir Desmond insists, 1.09 yards, is strongly associated with a lower risk of transmission but a distance of two metres was likely to be more effective," Mrs Mordaunt said.

She said the advice remains that, wherever possible, the public should keep two metres from one another.

But she added "Sage are of course keeping this under review."