Boris Johnson still planning full school return in September despite coronavirus curbs
A No 10 spokesperson insisted plans for all children to return to school in September were going ahead (PA)
Downing Street has insisted that plans for a full return of children to school in September are going ahead, despite fresh coronavirus curbs announced last week.
On Friday, Boris Johnson said that reopening schools was a “national priority” and he “believed” that plans would still go ahead, despite being forced to postpone some scheduled changes to coronavirus restrictions following a rise in cases.
When asked to clarify on Monday if schools would be able to reopen in full in the autumn, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Yes. I think you’ve heard from the Prime Minister on many occasions his commitment to getting children back into school in September.
“That’s vital for their education and their development. We are planning for all pupils in all year groups to return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term.”
He said that some schools could hypothetically be prevented from reopening if there “were to be a very specific localised lockdown”.
But the spokesperson stressed that the Government is planning “for all pupils in all year groups to return full-time” in the next academic year.
He added: “We are clear, and are sure that schools are clear too, that schools are the best place for children to learn and that we want them to get back with their teachers and their friends again.”
And when asked to clarify reports that some sectors of the economy could be required to close to allow schools to open safely, he said: “The measures which we’ve set out to allow schools to reopen include reducing mixing between pupils, staggering breaks and increasing the frequency of cleaning and more handwashing.
“And we believe we have provided the basis on which all schools can get pupils back for the start of the coming term.”
But Number 10 was unable to confirm what would be required to close in the event of a spike in cases, adding that “decisions will always be based on available evidence and scientific guidance”.
“You will see that in Greater Manchester and in other areas the steps that we’ve taken have been to restrict social contact because that was what the experts considered was responsible for an increase in the prevalence of the virus,” the spokesman added.
The latest comments come after the Government was forced to row back plans to reopen remaining leisure settings including bowling alleys, casinos and ice skating rinks, as well as close-contact services such as beauty treatments.
Fresh restrictions were also introduced on Friday in Greater Manchester and surrounding areas amid a significant increase in Covid-19 infections.