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Government has been ‘asleep at the wheel’ on re-opening schools, claims Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer accused the Government of not doing enough to get more children back into school (PA)

3 min read

The Government has been criticised for being “asleep at the wheel” on re-opening schools by Sir Keir Starmer, who claimed there has been “a total lack of planning”.

The Labour leader said a task force should have been put together "two or three months ago" with a plan to utilise empty public building like libraries and community centres as temporary classrooms.

He suggested if that work had been done then “we could have had all our children back in school by now”.

Speaking to Sky News, Sir Keir said: "There has been a total lack of planning. From the day the schools were shut down, it was obvious what needed to happen to get them back open again.

"You needed a risk assessment, and you needed to look at the space. I've talked to loads of headteachers, and the points they have made to me were obvious and practical and could have been overcome."

He added: "If you could put up Nightingale hospitals - a good thing to do - you can certainly put up temporary classrooms, you can certainly take over libraries, community centres.

"Had there been work on this from the day the schools closed down, I genuinely think we could have had all our children back in school by now.

“But the Government was asleep at the wheel, didn't get to this until too late in the day, and now we're in the situation where children will be able to do other things this weekend, but not be in school on Monday."

And appearing on Good Morning Britain, he said there was a "total lack of planning”, and accused Boris Johnson of ignoring his pleas to get classrooms back open.

"I wrote privately to the Prime Minister about it... because I care more about getting kids back to school than playing party politics on this,” the Labour leader said.

"The Prime Minister didn't even reply.”

And the Labour leader also defended his decision to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey as his shadow education secretary, calling it “the right thing to do”.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said: “I took the view that the article that Rebecca Long-Bailey tweeted about was classic antisemitic in the sense of saying here’s something awful that happened in America – point the finger at Israel.”

Sir Keir added: “I’m absolutely clear in my mind that it was the right thing to do because I do not want the Labour Party and anti-semitism to be in the same sentence ever again.”

He also said it was "absolutely right" for shadow environment minister LLoyd Russell-Moyle to apologise for comments he made about JK Rowling in a row about trans rights.

"Trans rights are human rights, the legislation we've got doesn't go far enough," the opposition boss told GMB.

"We ought to have a cross-party consensus about looking at it to see whether it can be developed.

"What concerns me here is the whole issue has become a political football, there must be a space for a mature discussion about how we improve the rights of the trans community."

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