Reopening schools should be one of the first things that happens when we reach any end to the coronavirus lockdown, Labour leader Keir Starmer said today.
He said he was worried about the impact that the closure of schools was having on more disadvantaged children who would not be getting the same home-schooling that their more advantaged peers were benefiting from.
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“One of the concerns I have is that the longer the schools are shut, the bigger the inequality between those children that are getting pretty good home-schooling because they have got the resources and the backing to do it and those that aren’t because perhaps they are in very overcrowded accommodation,” Sir Keir said this morning, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
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Asked whether “schools should be amongst the first things to go back”, Sir Keir said: “In principle, yes. I also think that mass community testing and tracing is also certainly going to be part of the answer here.”
When it was put to the Labour leader that the prospect would make teachers and teaching unions anxious, he said that it was important that the government outlined its strategy so that it could be discussed and checked, before a consensus was built around it.
Yesterday the NEU teaching union wrote to the prime minister demanding an end to "disturbing" speculation about schools reopening, calling for the government to share its modelling of how many pupils, staff, parents and carers are expected to contract or die from coronavirus.
The union’s joint general secretaries, Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, described in their letter to Boris Johnson how teachers had been "disturbed" by "increasing media speculation that schools will soon be reopened".
On Sunday England's children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, upset many teachers by saying that schools should consider opening “in some form” over the six-week summer holidays to help children catch up with the curriculum.