PM says there's 'no doubt' it's safe for pupils to return to schools in England

11 August 2020, 13:03

The Prime Minister has insisted it is safe for pupils in England to return
The Prime Minister has insisted it is safe for pupils in England to return. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today insisted it will be safe for England's schoolchildren to return to classes in September.

He told reporters during a visit to Herefordshire: "I have no doubt that it can be done safely. Schools are doing a huge amount to make sure that it is done safely.

"Just for the sake of social justice, ensuring that all our kids get the education they need, we need to get our pupils, our children, back to school in September and I am very, very impressed by the work that has been done to make those schools Covid-secure."

The PM's words come as schools in Scotland returned with local authorities across Scotland taking different approaches with the time frame for reopening for the first time since March 20.

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Asked about reports that work by Public Health England suggested secondary school pupils transmit coronavirus like adults, Boris Johnson said: "I'm very, very impressed by the way schools have got ready.

"Obviously we need to make sure that we don't have a second wave, that we do everything we can to avoid a second wave.

"I'm afraid you are going to see outbreaks, we have seen them across the country in the last few weeks and months and we have also seen the immense efforts that local authorities have gone to, local communities have gone to, to get that outbreak under control.

"The most important thing for people to remember is that you have got to get schools back, we will get schools back, but also we have got to stick to our discipline - so in schools they have some very well thought through plans for how to manage it."

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Health minister Edward Argar said face coverings for pupils was "not something that's in prospect at this point".

He said: "On the basis of the many studies we've seen so far, I think parents can have confidence that it's safe for their children to go back to school and it's very important their children do go back to school so they can continue their education."

Asked about masks, he said: "Well, that's not something that's in prospect at this point. We've been clear and the Department for Education have been clear that that poses a challenge to actually the ability to teach and the ability to learn in certain contexts.

"We don't think that that's necessary at this point, not least because we are essentially setting up different class groups or year groups as social bubbles...

"But at the moment we believe the measures that have been put in place around social distancing, around those bubbles and around the facility to test if necessary, are the right ones to continue to make our schools safe when they reopen."

He added: "What we've done is, we've been - quite rightly I think - willing to be guided by the scientific advice on things like masks and other aspects of this which, as you'll have seen over those past three or four months, has evolved."