education

Downing Street refuses to rule out staggered return of schools next month


Pupils sit apart during a socially distanced language lesson at Longdendale High School on July 16, 2020 (Picture: Getty)

The government has left open the possibility that there could be a staggered return to schools going back next month.

Downing Street has said the intention is to ‘start getting’ pupils back to school on March 8, but was not ruling out that they could be sent back in stages.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘It’s our intention to start getting kids back to school from March 8.’

Pressed if all students would be back on that date, he said: ‘It’s important that we undertake the review this week, we always said that we’d carry out the review this week and we would set out all the details in the road map on Monday.

‘I’m not obviously going to pre-empt what’s going to be in the road map on Monday but again it remains our priority to get kids back to school and we always said we want that to start from March 8 if the science and evidence allows.’

Earlier, Boris Johnson pledged a ‘cautious but irreversible’ approach to easing the lockdown and said no decisions have been made on whether all pupils can return to school at the same time.

A sports coach from Oldham Athletic Football Club, wearing a face visor due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leads a physical education (PE) lesson for year five pupils at Willowpark Primary Academy in Oldham, northern England on September 7, 2020 (Picture: Getty)

The Prime Minister stressed the need to be “very prudent” as ministers begin reviewing coronavirus restrictions in England, while lockdown-sceptical Tory MPs pressure for a swift reopening.

Mr Johnson is preparing to set out his “road map” for relaxing measures on February 22, with March 8 earmarked for schools to start reopening to all pupils.

Ministers have said that reopening of schools is their first priority, but reports have suggested that a staggered approach may be taken, with secondary schools going back a week later than primaries.

Mr Johnson told reporters: ‘No decisions have been taken on that sort of detail yet, though clearly schools on March 8 has for a long time been a priority of the Government and of families up and down the country,”‘

He said ‘we will do everything we can to make that happen’, but warned that infection rates are still “comparatively high” and Covid-19 patients in the NHS remain higher than the April peak.

‘So we’ve got to be very prudent and what we wanted to see is progress that is cautious but irreversible and I think that’s what the public and people up and down the country will want to see,’ Mr Johnson added.

Mr Johnson said he would aim to give target dates for restrictions being eased when he sets out his plan next Monday but ‘we won’t hesitate’ to delay plans if infection rates necessitate.

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