SCHOOLS can’t all go back at once because it will risk a huge second spike of coronavirus, Dominic Raab warned today.
The Foreign Secretary delivered the news that many students will still be learning from home even if some children return to classrooms, at the daily No10 briefing.
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He said ministers had asked scientific experts to draw up a list of options for schools to return that will keep the R rate of tramission low.
Mr Raab told the nation this evening: “The evidence has been that we wouldn’t be able to open up all schools, without a very real risk that the R rate or the transmission rate would rise at such a level that we would risk a second spike.”
He added: “The crucial bit for us is the five tests, and the risk of having a second spike in relation to any new changes that we would make, but that must of course include schools.”
The most critical of the Government’s five tests for ending lockdown is that no adjustments to measures would cause a second wave of deadly coronavirus infections in the UK.
Ministers are looking closely at plans to reopen schools, starting with those in primary school aged 10-11, on June 1.
Other pupils in years 10 and 12 would then follow if it was safe to do so.
Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman said last weekend there is a “great deal of logic” in first moving younger kids back into the classroom first.
The plans have started a row among parents and teachers over the safety of pupils if schools reopened, with some parents worrying they may be fined if they keep their kids at home.
Matt Hancock dodged questions on fines last week, but stressed that the Government did want to get things back to normal.
Headteachers around the UK have said they are scared schools will reopen to soon – because students and staff may not be safe from the killer bug.
Mr Raab said the UK would be watching closely countries, such as Denmark, which have already started reopening schools.
He said: “One of the things we can do is to watch very carefully (at those) countries that have reopened their schools and see what happens there.
“So that’s one of the several things we are doing in order to make a decision based on as much science as we can find about what is likely to happen.”
Deputy Chief Scientific adviser Angela McLean said the science on how easily kids can catch and spread coronavirus was far from certain.
She said: “I do know that there are some profound uncertainties and the underlying data about how likely children are to catch COVID-19 and how infectious they would be if they caught it.
“It’s really quite difficult to trace because they tend not have symptoms, all their symptoms are very mild if they do catch it.
“So, there’s not very much data because there haven’t been many children with symptoms.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon suggested today schools in Scotland may not reopen until after the summer holidays – in a worrying sign for children and their parents grappling with home schooling.
When asked about reports British schools could reopen on June 1, Ms Sturgeon said she did not think it was the right thing to do.
She said: “I cannot and should not comment on whether that is appropriate for England … but I do know, looking at the evidence I have now, I could not put my hand on my heart and say that would be a safe thing to do in Scotland.”
Her comments raise the prospect of a radically different approach for Scotland’s schools, which may remain shut for longer than ones south of the border.
The Government are aiming to give at least three weeks’ notice for education establishments to get ready for the changes.
They will need to space kids out in classrooms and make sure they stay apart as much as possible.
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