Politics

Schools ‘must reopen after half term’ MPs warn Boris Johnson as fears grow kids won’t return to class until MAY


BORIS Johnson must begin getting kids back into classrooms next month, the powerful Commons education boss warned today.

Robert Halfon said the PM must use the full “engine of Government”  to “get our schools open again after February half term” – beginning in areas with lower Covid cases instead of waiting for a national reopening.

Robert Halfon MP wants the kids back in classrooms after half term

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Robert Halfon MP wants the kids back in classrooms after half termCredit: Ray Collins – The Sun
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NINTCHDBPICT000628782326-2Credit: PA:Press Association

The prominent Tory MP’s intervention came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock hinted teachers WILL be jabbed as a priority – but that won’t happen before Easter.

There are fears some children in areas with high Covid rates won’t be able to return to class until May as the government looks set to rule out any kids returning before February half-term this week.

Raising concerns that kids won’t be back before April, Mr Hancock refused to put a date on schools returning today.

Despite saying there were “early signs” cases are falling, the health secretary said it was “far far far too soon” to be able to talk about lifting lockdown.

But his comments sparked anger from Mr Halfon who is the Chairman of Parliament’s powerful Education Select Committee.

He wants schools in lower case areas to be allowed to reopen sooner rather than waiting for a blanket reopening across England.

Schools would be likely to say shut for longer in areas with high Covid cases
Schools would be likely to say shut for longer in areas with high Covid cases
Latest figures show a cluster of areas in the Midlands are suffering a rapid Covid spread
Latest figures show a cluster of areas in the Midlands are suffering a rapid Covid spread

The Essex MP told The Sun today: “Long after the coronavirus has gone our younger children could be mired in ditch of educational poverty, a mental health crises and safeguarding hazards because of the damage of school closures.”

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And he demands: “The engine of Government should be directed to do everything possible to get our schools open again after February half term – as was stated previously by the Prime Minister.

“If there are areas of the country with low Covid rates, there should be no reason not to open the schools.”

He added: “As the Deputy Chief Medical Officer said to our Education committee recently, teachers and support staff are at no greater risk than any other profession, nor is there evidence that schools are significant transmitters of the virus.”

The row comes as Mr Hancock rejected an offer from an independent headteachers group to jab half a million teachers over next month’s half term.

On Sunday morning Mr Hancock said teachers have a “good shout” of being high on the coronavirus vaccine priority list once the most clinically vulnerable have received their jabs.

But health sources say this is unlikely to begin before April and the list of next wave tobe jabbed is still being decided.

Bosses of Britain’s leading private schools and academies have offered to vaccinate all of the UK’s teachers at half term at no cost to the government.

Brits back teacher receiving priority jabs according to our survey
Brits back teacher receiving priority jabs according to our survey

But Mr Hancock hit back: “It’s not a matter of logistics, the logistics can be organised.

“The challenge is the supply of vaccine, supply is the rate-limiting factor.

“The question is who should have each dose as it comes in… and we’ve taken the decision, quite rightly, to go through in order of clinical need, starting with those who are most likely to die from this disease.

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“We’re going through those who are clinically vulnerable… and after that there’s a perfectly reasonable debate to be had about who should go in what order next.”

He  added: “Teachers have got a good shout to be very high on the list and those discussions are going on.”

Six out of ten Brits want teachers to be given top priority to speed up the safe reopening of schools, a Sun on Sunday survey found.

Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said: “It’s vital schools reopen – for the child’s best interest and for families, too.

“If vaccinating teachers, after the most vulnerable in society, removes the barriers to reopening schools then we should do it.”

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