Now schools face a 'postcode lottery' for reopening - as top medic Dr Jenny Harries warns it is 'likely' they will return at different times and hints they WILL remain closed until after Easter


  • Matt Hancock fuelled growing fears schools will stay closed beyond the stated date of February half-term
  • Boris Johnson also said there would be no b'open sesame' reopening of society when lockdown was eased
  • And one academy boss said the current 'mood music' was schools would not opened before Easter holidays 
  • Steve Chalke, of Oasis Academy Trust, warned parents: 'I think they will miss the second half of term as well'
  • Now education insiders say date for reopening was 'never going to be' February and may stretch past March
The adverse effect of covid-19 on the school system in UK is making teachers, parents and students very worrisome as academic future of children looks very bleak.

Hard-pressed parents were handed the prospect of a new postcode lottery nightmare when lockdown ends as a top medic warned today that schools could reopen at different times.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries told MPs that it was 'likely' that there would a regional approach to restarting face-to-face lessons for millions of children when England comes out of the latest shutdown.

It means that the date when schools restart could be based on the infection rate locally, with areas with the highest rates staying closed for longer. 

Facing the Education Committee today Dr Harries was also unable to rule out schools remaining closed after February half-term - after education chiefs last night raised fears children  could be away from the classrooms until Easter.
  
Asked if schools could reopen next month she said the February restart should not be seen as a 'fixed date' and infection rates 'will continue to need to be observed and reviewed up until that time period'.

Asked about a regional phased reopening of schools she said: 'On the broad epidemiology it is highly likely that when we come out of this national lockdown we will not have consistent patterns of infection in our communities across the country. And therefore as we had prior to the national lockdown it may well be possible we need to have some differential application.

'But ... clearly schools will be right at the top of the priority for trying to ensure that that that balance of educational wellbeing is right at the forefront of consideration.

'The short answer is that it is likely we will have some sort of regional separation of interventions and it is likely that as we are hopefully starting to see now some glimmers of hope that London which has been affected earlier by the new variant, that may move across the country.'

She added: 'Schoolchildren definitely can transmit infection in schools - they can transmit it in any environment - but it is not a significant driver as yet, as far as we can see, of large-scale community infections.' 

More than a fifth of primary school pupils in England were on-site last week during the latest lockdown, new Government data shows.

Overall, 14 per cent of state school pupils were in class on January 13, which is higher than when schools were partially closed between March and May last year.
Figures from the Department for Education show 21 per cent of primary school pupils were on-site last week, while 5% of secondary school students were in class.

Attendance is greater than during the first lockdown where on-site attendance was approximately 4 per cent in primary schools and 1 per cent in secondary schools, according to the Government's analysis.

Pupils in schools and colleges in England - except children of key workers and vulnerable pupils - have been told to learn remotely until mid-February due to tighter restrictions.

But approximately 709,000 children of critical workers were in attendance on January 13 - which represents 72 per cent of all pupils in attendance last week.
Despite the UK recording another drop in Covid cases, school bosses believe millions of pupils now face the prospect of being home schooled until the start of April. It means students will have faced almost a year of on-and-off disruption to their education.

Fears of an April return were further compounded as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned at the weekend that it would not be possible to start to lift lockdown restrictions in England until March.

And yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock cast more doubt on a March re-opening for schools when he declined to say that a loosening of lockdown rules meant a return for students.

The warning comes as disgruntled Tory backbenchers last night demanded the Government produce an urgent 'road map' out of lockdown - with measures due to be lifted in mid-February.

But as the number of people vaccinated reached 4million yesterday and infection figures continued to fall, with Britain recording another 37,535 new cases, down a fifth from last Monday, Boris Johnson last night defied fresh demands to say how and when the brutal restrictions in England will ease. 

Meanwhile, Government sources last night said it was too early to say when schools would reopen, with one source saying: 'It's about what the health picture is. If lockdown does its job then schools could be the first thing to open.' 

The Prime Minister has repeatedly vowed that the reopening of schools will be his priority when lockdown is eased – but no date has ever been set. 

And now the leader of a major academy chain has warned the 'mood' is for schools to shut until the Easter holidays - at the start of April. 

Steve Chalke, head of the Oasis academy chain, which runs 48 schools, said: 'I don't think schools will reopen until post Easter. I think they will miss the second half of term as well.'  



Source: Daily Mail

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