TEACHERS cannot be guaranteed 100 per cent safety but schools will still be urged to reopen next month if staff ‘really care’ about their pupils, one of the government’s most senior ministers has said.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove (pictured) insisted headteachers in England should prepare to readmit children in reception, year one and year six from June 1, despite accepting it was impossible to eliminate risk.
The former education secretary told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘The only way ever to ensure that you never catch coronavirus is to stay at home completely but there is always in any loosening of these restrictions, a risk of people catching the coronavirus. You can never eliminate risk.’
Insisting an outbreak in schools was ‘extremely unlikely’ he said smaller classes and staggered starting-times would be enforced as pupils start to return.
Appealing to councils and headteachers, he said: ‘If you really care about children, you’ll want them to be in schools, you will want them to be learning, you will want them to have new opportunities — so look to your responsibilities.’
The World Health Organization said they had not seen rises in the disease in countries where schools have begun reopening.
Chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said children were ‘less capable’ of spreading Covid-19 and at ‘very low risk’ of getting ill.
Yet councils including Liverpool, Gateshead and Hartlepool have insisted schools will remain shut as local cases of the virus continue to rise.
Gateshead council leader Martin Gannon reiterated that its advice was ‘stay at home’.
Dr Patrick Roach, head of the teachers’ union NASUWT, said: ‘The government must now publish the scientific evidence it is relying on to claim it will be safe for children to return to school.’
However, Geoff Barton, head of the Association of Schools and College Leaders, said it had been ‘reassured’ by talks with the government’s scientific advisors and would advise schools to start reopening from June 1.
The call for schools to reopen has also been backed by former Labour education secretaries Lord Blunkett and Alan Johnson.