Teachers must be vaccinated NOW to keep schools open and children safe, experts say
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He insisted schools were “safe” and vowed to put youngster’s education first while admitting the issue would remain “under review.” Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, the Prime Minister said: “Schools are safe. It is very, very important to stress that. I would advise all parents thinking about want to do, look at where your area is, overwhelmingly you’ll be in a part of the country where primary schools tomorrow will be open.”
He said primary schools in London and parts of the southeast would stay shut this week because of “exceptional measures” needed to curb the surge in the mutant strain of the virus in those areas.
“What we’re doing, clearly is grappling with a new variant of the virus which is surging particularly in London and the Southeast, and that’s why we’ve had to take exceptional measures for some parts to close primary schools, keep primary schools closed temporarily,” the Prime Minister said.
“We’ve really fought very hard throughout this pandemic across the country to keep schools open.”
He added: “A the scientists continually attest, the risk to staff is very small. But, of course, the benefits of education are so huge, overwhelmingly we want to keep our young people, keep children in education because that’s the best thing for them. So that’s why we’ve worked so hard to do it. So I’d advise all parents thinking about what to do, look at where your area is: overwhelmingly you’ll be in a part of the country where primary schools tomorrow will be open.”
Asked whether exams should be cancelled, the Prime Minister said: “We’ve got to be realistic, we’ve got to be realistic about the pace at which this new variant has spread, we’ve got to be realistic about the impact that it’s having on our NHS, and we’ve got to be humble in the face of this virus.”
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss yesterday told Times Radio yesterday that schools would “absolutely” open on schedule.
“I’m a parent of secondary school children myself, so I know the challenges of making sure your children are keeping in touch with online learning, and we want to get those schools open,” she said.
Mr Johnson last night faced a call from three former Labour education secretaries and dozens of opposition MPs and peers for the Government to ensure every child unable to attend schools has access to computer equipment necessary for online learning.
A letter signed by former Cabinet ministers David Blunkett, Alan Johnson and Baroness Morris said: “With the new term starting today, we are calling on you to urgently ensure that every child away from school has the data and device that they need to log in and learn from home.
“This will require a register of which children are without the technology or connectivity and a clear plan for how they will quickly receive this.”
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, yesterday called for teachers to be vaccinated “as a priority”.
She said: “Schools need to be a priority for children, not only for their education but also for their wellbeing.
“Schools should be the last to close and the first to open, so it is a serious moment for children.
“If there have to be closures, we have already seen closures in secondary schools for two weeks, but if there have to be any closures at all it must be for the absolute minimum of time and that time must be used very well.
“I would like teachers to be offered vaccination as a priority. That is something we haven’t heard yet from the Government, but it is something that I think is very, very necessary.”
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman yesterday said children’s education cannot be “furloughed” for months while the country waits for the pandemic to subside.
In a newspaper article, the head of the schools standards watchdog wrote: “Almost everyone now recognises the importance of balancing the risks of transmitting infection against the harms to children from keeping schools closed.
“There is a real consensus that schools should be the last places to close and the first to reopen, and having argued for this since last spring, I welcome it.”
She added: “Because it is increasingly clear that children’s lives can’t just be put on hold while we wait for vaccination programmes to take effect, and for waves of infection to subside.
“We cannot furlough young people’s learning or their wider development.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The safety of teachers and pupils will always be paramount, but we must all move heaven and earth to get children back to the classroom where they best thrive.”
He added: “It remains our duty to provide a future for our children that is full of hope and opportunity.
“This year, my admiration for teachers and all that they do has reached an even higher level, and it gives me faith in how we will continue to fight this virus.
“The fight has already been a long one, and many have lost so much, but we must remain steadfast in our final push. As a nation, we are in this together and we will overcome it together, as our country always does.
“During this time, I remain determined to do all I can to protect our children, protect education and ensure the youngest in our society do not bear the heaviest cost while beating this virus.
“I want my children, all children, to be able to go back to school.”
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