Nick Ferrari confronts Michael Gove over school closure U-turn

5 January 2021, 08:40

By Fiona Jones

This is the moment Nick Ferrari challenged Cabinet minister Michael Gove after the Government said it was "perfectly safe" to send children to school and then hours later it was announced schools will close until at least mid-February.

The Prime Minister made the announcement in an address to the nation on Monday evening amid concerns the NHS risks being overwhelmed.

This is a rapid backtrack from their previous message; in December some London boroughs faced legal action from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson after advising their local schools to close.

Mr Gove responded: "One of the things that we have wanted to do throughout the pandemic is do everything possible to keep schools open, but yesterday the four chief medical officers of the UK made a judgement that we have to move towards level five, the highest level of warning.

"So reluctantly, with a heavy heart and on the basis of the evidence, we felt that we had to go further in the restrictions than had already been announced and close primary schools."

Nick asked why children were ever allowed to go school in the first place when the relevant advice could have been sought on Sunday.

Mr Gove responded that there were already a number of primary and secondary schools that had had their openings delayed in high risk areas: "We wanted to do all that we could to make sure children can get access to education because we know that the best place for children to be in order to be taught and to learn is the classroom.

"It was the very last resort."

Nick asked Mr Gove how supportive he was personally of the Government's initial approach to allow children back to school.

"I think it's right that children wherever possible should be in school but again, faced with the clear evidence the chief medical officers presented to us, we were left with no option," Mr Gove said.

There had been a suggestion that in a Cabinet meeting Mr Gove and health secretary Matt Hancock had advised against opening schools yet the Prime Minister sided with Gavin Williamson - Nick asked how true this was.

"We judged collectively together that it was right to close schools in London and elsewhere but seek to keep schools open in other parts of the country," Mr Gove said, reiterating that when the scientific evidence was presented yesterday, they "reluctantly" came to the opposite decision.

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