Full school reopening plans under threat as unions demand staggered return from March 8
BORIS Johnson's school reopening plans are under threat tonight after unions trashed his plan to get all kids back in classrooms from March 8.
A coalition of education unions today demanded a “phased return” to classrooms – despite a dramatic fall in coronavirus infections.
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The PM is desperate to get children back into schools on March 8 after months of lost education caused by the pandemic, stressing earlier this week that it was his “number one priority”.
Insiders said it was his intention to get them all back at once if the data allowed, with final decisions being made over this coming weekend.
But a coalition of nine militant teaching unions today claimed that sending all kids back to the classroom on the proposed date would be a “reckless move”.
A joint statement said: “It could trigger another spike in Covid infections, prolong the disruption of education and risk throwing away the hard-won progress made in suppressing the virus over the course of the latest lockdown.
“What we do know is that the full reopening of schools will bring nearly 10 million pupils and staff into circulation in England – close to one fifth of the population.
“This is not a small easing of lockdown restrictions. It is a massive step.”
The statement comes despite a number of health experts and epidemiologists backing the reopening of schools on March 8.
A report from the Legatum Institute think tank released today found that getting all kids back into the classroom will only have a minor effect on the R rate.
The think tank says getting all kids back on March 8 will only see 789 admissions to hospital.
This is based on Sage scientist estimates the R rate will increase by 0.2 to 0.5 when classrooms reopen.
And earlier this week, Professor Neil Ferguson said he expected all schools on March 8 as cases are “halving” every two weeks.
The Imperial College scientist, who is in favour of easing lockdown cautiously, said the dramatic fall in infections meant the government had "a bit of leeway" to send children back to classrooms.
It marks yet another stand-off between the government and teaching unions over the reopening of schools.
In May last year, a row exploded after the boss of the National Education Union, Kevin Courtney, advised half a million teachers not to engage with plans to reopen schools on June 1.
And in August, Dr Mary Bousted, head of the left-wing National Education Union (NEU), threatened to force some schools to stay shut in September because of the rise in Covid cases.
Classrooms have been closed to most pupils since January 4, with a government roadmap on exiting lockdown due to be published on February 22.
But experts have warned that the sustained closure of schools has had a devastating mental health impact on children.
Shocking stats reported by The Sun earlier this week revealed that pupils had missed 1 billion days of school due to Covid.
Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said millions of pupils have effectively had their “lives taken away” because of lockdown.
And she urged the government to allow schools to remain open in the summer so kids have somewhere to meet, play and catch up on studying.
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