PARENTS have been ordered to stop gossiping at the school gates or risk ruining the Covid recovery.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said today that just because kids are back in schools, it doesn’t mean adults are allowed to have a catch up with other parents.
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Mixing between households is still not allowed – even outside – until the end of the month, he stressed.
Speaking to the Evening Standard today, he said: “Parents need to be very careful of socially distancing.
“Hands, face, space – that’s still the rule for parents collecting their children from school.
“And they should take their children home. The roadmap doesn’t permit mixing of households at this stage.
“So we are saying that they just need to go straight home after school and keep socially distancing at the school gate as well.”
Mr Gibb also said he worried about people not socially distancing as people grow tired of the pandemic and lockdown rules.
He added: “If you want to be fair to other people – as well as to prevent you yourself from contracting the virus – it’s really important to stick to the rules as they are set out and we all need to socially distance.”
Schools across England went back yesterday in the first easing of the lockdown under the PM’s roadmap.
People were also allowed to visit relatives in care homes for the first time in months, and now people can leave their homes for leisure purposes – such as to meet a friend for coffee or go to the park to sit on a bench.
But the stay-at-home message is still in place until the end of the month.
Ministers are happy overall with the smooth return to school for millions of children.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said today: “Yesterday, it was lovely to see the happy scenes as all pupils and teachers returned to schools and colleges across the country. Early indications are that approximately 99 per cent of state-funded schools are open – with pupils returning to the classroom as planned.
“Being back in the classroom has huge benefits to pupils’ wellbeing, as well as their education. I am hugely grateful to schools and colleges for all the planning and preparation to make sure all students are able to return safely to the classroom.”
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They will have to take three lateral flow tests at school to begin with – and if they are positive will be ordered home for ten days.
Under the system, which started yesterday, all secondary students will be tested at school three times over the next fortnight.
Trained teachers will administer lateral flow tests to pupils, which turn around a result in half an hour but with reduced accuracy.
After the first two weeks back in the classroom, the same swabs will be sent out to parents so students can do home testing twice a week.
Ministers have admitted around one in every thousand lateral flow tests carried out returns a false positive.
Under the new rules children who return a positive lateral flow test that was carried out at home will be asked to take a follow-up PCR swab, which is much more accurate.
If that follow-up test comes back negative, they will then be able to return to the classroom immediately.
But students who get a positive result from a lateral flow test at school won’t be entitled to a follow-up test and will have to self-isolate for the full 10 days.
Ministers say the discrepancy is because tests at school are being carried out “under supervision in a controlled environment”.
But the policy raises the prospect that thousands of students could be banned from the classroom in the first two weeks back due to false positives.
If every one in a thousand lateral flow tests returns such a result, that would affect 6,000 students.
But ministers are braced for an increase in infections as millions of kids are allowed to mix across the country again.
Only older people and those with underlying health conditions will have been able to get their vaccinations so far, despite the smooth rollout.
Last night the PM insisted scientists will monitor the impact of the schools reopening ahead of deciding on the next steps in unlocking the country.
But he was upbeat that it won’t push his roadmap off course.
He said: “We will continue on this roadmap. At all times, as we decide on the next steps forward and when we take them, we will be driven by the data.
“There is a big budget of risk involved in opening schools today in the way that we are. That’s just inevitable.
“We think it’s manageable, we think it’s right, we think we’re prudent to be doing what we are.
“The biggest risk is not opening schools now but we’ll continue to take a cautious and prudent approach.”
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries warned the case rate is “still quite high” and is at the same level as the end of last September.
She said everyone must still stick to the rules or there was a chance of another wave.
She said: “This is the level at which a new wave could easily take off again from and we need to persist with all of those actions.”