'Why is it safe for pupils to return in Belfast but not Basildon?' Nick Ferrari asks Minister

19 June 2020, 12:45

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Nick Ferrari challenged the Education Minister asking why it was safe for pupils to return in Northern Ireland but not in England, asking will all children be back in September?

Nick Ferrari had one question, which is on the minds of many parents across England, for Education Minister Nick Gibb, "will all our schoolchildren be behind their desks, come September?"

The Minister said it was the Government's "clear intention, that all schools will be fully open."

When asked what the hurdle was in achieving that, the Minister said they "always have to rely on the advice of the medical and scientific advisers, and that leads everything."

He said there were over a million children already in schools after Reception Year 1 and 6 and part-time Year 10 and 12."

"It's a phased approach, with safety at it's heart, but our clear intention is that schools will be open in September."

Nick Ferrari was speaking to the Education Minister
Nick Ferrari was speaking to the Education Minister. Picture: LBC/PA

Nick challenged the Education Minister, asking why schools in Northern Ireland "would seem to be ahead of England on this" that they are relaxing the rule and "their children will be back."

"Why is it safe in Belfast but not Basildon?" The LBC presenter asked.

The answer from Mr Gibb was "each has their own local issues to deal with."

Nick Ferrari pointed out that "Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdon, so if it's OK for those children you would have thought England, and indeed the rest of the country could fall in line."

Mr Gibb said it was a matter for the devolved Governments to "take their own decisions" but he said England was clear about a phased approach to reopening to all pupils.

He added teachers had been given the discretion to bring back more pupils "if they have the capacity to do that."

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Nick asked the Minister if Boris Johnson's Government was deserving of the public's confidence, to which Mr Gibb said it was a "very challenging time for Ministers, not just in this Government but Governments around the world."

He said coronavirus was a "fast-moving" and "unprecedented" crisis, adding he thought the Government has "acted with pace, boldly, we've got the NHS that we feared might be overwhelmed by the crisis, has not been overwhelmed."

He attributed this to the introduction of social-distancing measures and people sticking to them. He also paid tribute to the "wonderful NHS staff, who have worked tirelessly."

He said there was a "huge amount to be proud of," but admitted, "some things we could have done better."

Watch the whole exchange in the video at the top of the page.