politics

Gavin Williamson faces grilling from furious MPs this afternoon demanding a ‘roadmap’ to reopen schools


GAVIN Williamson faces a grilling this afternoon by furious MPs demanding a roadmap to get kids back in schools.

Education Select Committee Robert Halfon has demanded the Education Secretary appear in Parliament today over fears schools could stay a shut after February half-term.

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Gavin Williamson faces a tough grilling by MPs today

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Gavin Williamson faces a tough grilling by MPs todayCredit: AFP

Mr Halfon has demanded the “whole engine of the state must do everything possible to get out schools open after half-term as was originally proposed.”

In order to get kids behind desks, teacher might need to be bumped up the vaccination list.

Mr Williamson is expected to appear before MPs at around 330pm this afternoon.

Mr Halfon told the Guardian: “If it means priority vaccinations for teachers and support staff then it is worth it because despite the efforts of individual teachers and support staff who are doing their best we are facing an epidemic of mental health problems and educational poverty.”

And speaking to Sky News, Mr Halfon slammed the Government for putting kids’ mental health, academic attainment and wellbeing as risk for keeping schools closed.

He leaped on comments made by Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, last week, saying there was no new evidence showing schools were “vectors of transmission”.

Mr Williamson needs to set out “exactly what the health conditions need to be” for schools to reopen, Mr Halfon said.

And the Education Secretary should spell out why kids in areas with low rates of coronavirus can’t head back to school.

He even suggested tightening lockdown restrictions in order to reopen schools.

“It may be that one thing the Government should consider is that even if there are tighter restrictions in other parts of our society and economy, you have those restrictions in order to enable the schools to open,” he said this morning.

Kids face being out of school until Easter

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Kids face being out of school until EasterCredit: PA:Press Association
Ex-Cabinet minister Esther McVey accused the Government of forgetting about kids

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Ex-Cabinet minister Esther McVey accused the Government of forgetting about kidsCredit: PA:Press Association

A string of Tory MPs and ex-Cabinet ministers piled onto the PM, demanding he let kids return to schools.

Former Cabinet Minister Esther McVey said “We genuinely seem to have forgotten about schoolchildren.

“They are the pandemic’s forgotten victims. We’ve got to start thinking about their prospects and futures.”

She added: “It’s time to get schools open, to safeguard children’s futures and to make sure we don’t let down an entire generation.”

Mark Harper, head of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said: “As the PM himself said last August, ‘keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, ­economically unsustainable and morally indefensible’.”

It is feared some kids in areas with high Covid rates won’t be able to return to class until spring with Mr Williamson set to rule out any kids returning before February half-term.

Mr Harper has demanded Mr Williamson set out a plan to reopen schools by March 8.

Tom Tugenhadt, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, also heaps pressure on ministers to reopen schools, saying: “Closed schools increases inequality, exposes the most vulnerable, and creates gaps that cannot be filled.

“We must open schools as soon as possible.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey refused to say when kids would be back behind desks this morning.

She told Sky News: “The Prime Minister only made the decision to close schools for face to face learning when the NHS was put into alert level 5.

“It’s important we continue to make sure we try to do everything to bring infection rates down.”

 

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey insists PM wants kids back in school as soon as possible





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