Schools reopening: Boris Johnson refuses to rule out cutting summer holiday to help kids catch up on missed classes
BORIS Johnson today refused to say whether the summer holidays could be cut short to help kids catch up from missed school time.
He promised it education was the "single biggest priority" for the Government but refused to be drawn on any further plans to get kids back in the classrooms.
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The PM has said he hopes to do that from March 8 onwards, if the vaccine programme continues to go well.
MPs have called on him to extend the school day with extra classes and to carry on teaching into the summer time to help kids catch up.
The PM was asked today: "Will school terms be extended into the summer holidays to help kids catch up?"
And he replied: "On Feb 22 or in the week of, we will be setting out much more about what we are doing to do to help pupils catch up for the learning they have lost.
"This is the single biggest priority now for the Government.
"We have got to work flat out now as a country, as a society to remedy the loss of learning kids have had.
"There's a big programme underway as you know, another 300m we just announced for catch up and 1 on 1 tutorials.
"Gavin Williamson will be setting out exactly what we want kids to go to catch up and bounce back from this pandemic – because it's going to take a while to do that."
The PM also defended the AstraZeneca jab and others as "no doubt the way out" of the pandemic – despite fears it's not as effective on the South African variant.
The PM insisted that the jabs were a "massive benefit to our country and the population" and still worked to stop serious disease and death.
However, a recent study appeared to show that it wasn't able to stop mild to moderate illness of the variant – prompting South Africa to pause its rollout of the jabs while more research is done.
Importantly, none of the people involved in the research were hospitalised or died – and some trial participants only showed mild or moderate Covid-19 symptoms.
Britain has dished out more than 12million jabs so far – and is expected to hit its target of reaching nearly 15million by Valentines' Day.
The PM did not rule out that the South African variant could lead to a delay in easing restrictions if it reduces the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine's effect on transmissibility.
Pressed on whether there could be a delay to easing restrictions if the jab is less effective at reducing transmission of the South African variant, he said: "We think that all the vaccines that we're using, both the vaccines that we're currently using, are effective in stopping serious disease and death."
The PM also said today he is concerned there could be a "rebounding" in crime figures as the country emerges from lockdown.
He said efforts are being made to ensure a "tough policing policy response" and also to "make sure that kids, young people, have other things to do, they don't get sucked into the nihilistic culture of these gangs".
said "absolutely everything" is being done to tackle violent crime, after a mother and former Conservative Party activist pleaded with him for help following her only son's stabbing death.
Sven Badzak, a 22-year-old aspiring lawyer from Maida Hill, west London, was killed and his friend is fighting for his life after they were chased and attacked by a group in Kilburn, north-west London, at around 5.30pm on Saturday, Scotland Yard said.
His mother, Jasna Badzak, said her son, who had a degree in sociology but wanted to become a lawyer, had met the Prime Minister and other well-known Conservative politicians when he was younger, through her campaigning work with the party.
Asked what she would say to Mr Johnson, she said: "This is a child and his mother who helped you get elected. You knew Sven. You were high-fiving him as your mate.
"I want to hear from him (Boris Johnson), from (David) Cameron, from (George) Osborne.
She added: "I just want the Prime Minister to tell the police to do their job, catch the perpetrators, get the evidence beyond any doubt and convict them."
Mr Johnson said his thoughts are with Ms Badzak and her family "in mourning the loss of her son".
He told reporters: "I think that what's happening on the streets of too many of our cities is very, very sad and I want to see kids protected from some of the gang crime, the knife crime, the culture of violence that they're all too often sucked up in."
It came as ministers gave out an extra £35million in extra funding to stop kids being dragged into a life of crime.
The Home Office said more cash for its Violence Reduction Units would help keep youths off the streets and out of trouble.
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