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Thu, 9 July 2020

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Boris Johnson confirms primary schools will re-open on 1 June but ‘it may not be possible’ for all of them

Boris Johnson confirms primary schools will re-open on 1 June but ‘it may not be possible’ for all of them

Boris Johnson said classrooms will re-open on 1 June despite criticism (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson has confirmed the Government is ploughing ahead with plans to re-open primary schools on 1 June despite an ongoing safety row.

But the Prime Minister did acknowledge opening in a week’s time “may not be possible” for all of them after a raft of councils announced their intention to keep classrooms closed over fears they cannot prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking at the Downing Street press briefing, he said: “The education of children is crucial for their welfare, for their long-term future and for social justice.

"In line with the approach being taken in many other countries, we want to start getting our children back into the classroom in a way that is as manageable and as safe as possible.

"We said we would begin with early years' settings and reception, year one, and year six in primary schools."

He added: "Today, I can announce it is our intention to go ahead with that as planned on June 1, a week on Monday.

"We then intend from June 15 for secondary schools to provide some contact for year 10 and year 12 students to help them to prepare for exams next year, with up to a quarter of these students in at any point."

Mr Johnson said: "By opening schools to more pupils in this limited way we are taking a deliberately cautious approach and this comes after a constructive period of consultation with school teachers and unions."

Ministers had hoped the publication of a batch of papers by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) on Friday would help win over teachers’ representatives on the current plan.

However major union the NASUWT said the fresh advice would only increase “uncertainty and anxiety”, and the documents “highlight the significant gaps in evidence, knowledge and understanding which remain in terms of the susceptibility of children to Covid-19 and how infectious those with mild and asymptomatic cases of the virus may be”.

Mr Johnson said the Department for Education will “engage with teaching unions, local authorities and school leaders in the coming days” and the final decision will be taken “as part of the formal review into lockdown measures which the law requires us to undertake by Thursday”.

But the PM added: "I acknowledge that the June 1 opening may not be possible for all schools but the Government will continue to support and work with the sector so that any schools experiencing difficulties are able to open more widely as soon as possible.” 

"This is going to be tough," he explained. "What we will do is make sure that we stagger things and we pace things and we work directly with you, with local authorities, to make sure that there is a plan."

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