MPs to get an extra week in recess as parents await decision on school reopening

MPs will get an extra week in recess, even as ministers left parents anxiously waiting for news of whether the reopening of schools will be delayed.

The Government plans to put Parliament’s return on hold for seven days over fears MPs and staff could spread Covid-19.

But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has still not said whether the reopening of classrooms will face similar delays, amid warnings from scientists.

MPs will return to the Commons tomorrow to vote on the Brexit deal – though they have been urged to take part by Zoom where possible.

And they are expected to approve the Government’s plan to extend recess in the same sitting.

Meanwhile, school leaders and parents remain in limbo – waiting for news of whether the phased reopening of schools, still set to begin in a few days, will be delayed.

The Department for Education said the plan to reopen schools from January remained “under review”.

A spokesperson said: “We want all pupils to return in January as school is the best place for their development and mental health, but as the Prime Minister has said, it is right that we follow the path of the pandemic and keep our approach under constant review.”

Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious diseases epidemiology at University College London, said the rise in cases was “very largely driven” by the new, more infectious variant of coronavirus, and suggested that allowing pupils to return to schools would mean stricter restrictions in other areas of society.

He told the BBC: “We’ve had control measures that were previously controlling the old variant are not enough for this variant.

“And so if we want to control the new variant we are going to need much tighter restrictions.”

Schools are currently due to reopen in phases from next week
Schools are currently due to reopen in phases from next week

Prof Hayward said he thought schools would have to return “maybe a little bit later” but that it would mean “we’re going to have to have increased, strict restrictions in other areas of society to pay for that”.

“We need to be more or less in a similar sort of messages of stay at home unless you really, really have to, so there’s that combined with incentivisation of testing, incentivisation of isolation – those sorts of things that will carry us through the next few months while we get as many people as possible vaccinated.”

Are you a parent who is concerned about when schools will go back? Let us know in the comments below.

The head of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) called for “a more grown-up” debate around the reopening of schools as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens.

He said: “I do think we need to be absolutely clear and say to the ministers and the Prime Minister ‘If scientists are saying they think it’s not safe, how do you, the PM or minister, know better?”‘

He added: “What’s the evidence, the rationale for business as usual?”

Speaking to Good Morning Britain, Mr Barton said: “This doesn’t have to be binary – it doesn’t have to be all young people in school or not in school.

“I would say the people who best know their communities, the people who best know what facilities young people have got at home, whether it’s IT or books, are the school leaders or the teachers.”

The union leader added: “What we could be doing is reducing the number of young people in schools while we get that testing in place, making sure we focus on those young people who we need to have in school, trusting the other ones not to be in school.

“Why don’t we have a more nuanced debate about it? A more grown-up attitude, and why don’t we trust our school and college leaders who, frankly, are looked to for real leadership by their local communities?”


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