PARENTS should have no fears about sending children back to class today if their school is open, Boris Johnson urged amid fears over soaring Covid cases.
The prime minister has faced calls for a nationwide shutdown after closing many schools in southern England in an effort to curb infection rates.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr there was ‘no doubt in my mind that schools are safe’ but said further closures would be kept under ‘constant review’.
‘The issue is how can you stop schools being places where the virus can circulate and then spread into all the other households,’ he said.
Experts have warned the new ‘mutant’ variant of Covid-19 spreads more quickly and easily among children, but there is no evidence that it is more deadly.
Thousands of pupils will resume their studies today after the Christmas break.
But all primary schools in London and parts of the south-east have been told to switch to remote learning, except for the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils, for at least the next two weeks.
Secondary schools across England are delaying and staggering pupils’ returns, with those sitting exams this year due back next Monday and other year groups on January 18. Roger Gough, Tory leader of Kent County Council, urged ministers to rethink reopenings, while Brighton and Hove Council advised schools to stay shut. The National Education Union told members it is not safe to return to classrooms.
And NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said the school leaders’ union had begun preliminary legal proceedings, calling on the Department for Education to share scientific data. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer stopped short of backing more closures but said it was ‘inevitable’ they would occur, adding: ‘We need a plan in place to deal with it.’
Former chief scientific adviser and Sage member Sir Mark Walport told Mr Marr ‘tighter’ controls may be needed to reduce the spread to older people. Public figures including Tony Blair are calling for children from poorer families to be given equipment for remote learning. Up to 1.78million have no access to a laptop, desktop or tablet and 880,000 have only a mobile internet connection at home.