PARENTS could be told when schools will reopen in the next few days, a minister hinted today.
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said that parents would be given two weeks’ notice over the reopening of schools after fears kids wouldn’t return to classrooms until Easter.
Classrooms have been empty during Covid lockdownCredit: Alamy
Speaking to MPs today, Mr Gibb said: “We want to give two weeks’ notice so that parents can make arrangements for the care of their children and we will be making announcements in the next few days.”
He said the two weeks’ notice would give families time to prepare for the return, along with head teachers and staff.
But he said any decision would be guided by public health advice, with the Covid death rate today hitting 100,000 and fears the NHS would be overwhelmed with cases.
Mr Gibb added: “Ultimately it was the pressure on the NHS that caused us to move into a national lockdown and the Government is monitoring NHS capacity carefully as it reviews whether easing lockdown might be possible.”
The UK went into its third national lockdown at the start of the month as Covid cases rose, with students once again told the study from home.
But with no decision yet made over when physical classrooms will be able to reopen, fears have started to grow that schools won’t be reopened until Easter.
Whitehall insiders had previously insisted schools will be “the first” thing to reopen when lockdown is eased – with one option to reopen schools for primary school kids first as it is harder for them to work from home using Zoom.
Boris Johnson said yesterday he hopes to be able to relax some lockdown restrictions in three weeks as ministers mull over reopening schools.
The PM had dramatically ordered all schools to shut until the February half term in a bid to get rocketing infection rates under control.
He has previously refused to rule out extending the shutdown, and ministers have previously indicated restrictions will only be gradually eased from around March.
School bosses said they reckon classes will stay shut to most kids until after the Easter holidays, which are at the beginning of April.
And a study has since suggested primary school children could be resistant to Covid.
Studies by Public Health England has piled on fresh pressure to the PM to reopen schools for younger pupils, after finding there was a “strong case” to get kids behind desks again.
Students in primary schools are “resistant” to soaring coronavirus case numbers and play a small role in spreading new infections, experts concluded.
Only 3 per cent of primary schools had outbreaks of coronavirus, even while the number of new infections jumped across the UK as the second wave took hold of the nation.
PHE’s chief schools investigator Shamez Ladhani said: “Everything we have learnt from the summer half-term and the recent autumn term indicates that they are safe to remain open.”
But, PHE found that secondary schools were five times as likely to have outbreaks and could have to wait longer to reopen.
The studies looked at age data in all confirmed cases, studying outbreaks of two or more cases and doing random coronavirus swab and antibody tests.
The results found younger kids are much less likely to catch and spread the virus.
Nick Gibb, the Schools Standards minister, said the decision to reopen schools would be guided by public health adviceCredit: PA:Press Association