Boris Johnson brands school closures ‘morally indefensible’ amid suggestions pubs and shops could shut to keep them open
Boris Johnson said reopening schools is a national priority (PA)
Boris Johnson has claimed it is “morally indefensible” to keep schools closed longer than necessary amid suggestion education would be the last sector to shut in future lockdowns.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the Prime Minister said it was “a national priority to get all pupils back into school in September”.
“This pandemic isn’t over, and the last thing any of us can afford to do is become complacent,” he wrote. “But now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so.”
“Because there is ultimately no substitute for a child learning at school to give them the knowledge, skills and wherewithal to succeed in life.”
The Government has repeatedly insisted that plans for all children in England to return to school in September will go ahead, including in areas experiencing local lockdowns such as Preston, Greater Manchester and Leicester.
Mr Johnson continued: “Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible.
“I have always believed that talent is uniformly distributed but opportunity is not, and the first step to changing that is by helping those who have fallen behind to catch up.”
And he added that “nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children” than reopening classrooms.
It is understood that the PM has said schools should be “the absolutely last sector” to close in future localised lockdowns.
Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has backed such calls, urging ministers to put education ahead of the economy to ensure children are "at the heart of planning for any future coronavirus lockdowns".
But schools minister Nick Gibb said the Government was "moving away from these sort of national decisions about pubs versus schools".
Elsewhere, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, where there has been a spike in cases, warned that the Government needed to improve its test and trace system in order to reopen schools alongside other sectors.
He told the BBC: "If we were seeing cases go up again, then yes, absolutely, pubs would be the first thing that I would say would have to close... I think there is a growing amount of evidence that pubs are one of the main places where this virus spreads."