Michael Gove has insisted that teachers will be safe to return to primary schools from June 1, arguing that the only way to completely eliminate the risk of catching coronavirus would be for them to remain “perpetually imprisoned” at home.
Urging teaching unions and councils opposed the plans to reconsider, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster stated that the “clear scientific and clinical advice” was that it was safe providing social distancing is enforced.
Separately, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organisation, said that the limited data on schools reopening was “very reassuring”, adding that the evidence from other countries suggested there had been no “big outbreaks” in those that had stayed open.
children are less capable of spreading it, even if they get the infection and certainly are at very low risk of getting ill from the disease."” data-reactid=”20″>She added that from what is currently known, it appears that “children are less capable of spreading it, even if they get the infection and certainly are at very low risk of getting ill from the disease.”
It comes after the ministers received a major boost this weekend from the Association of School and College Leaders, which has confirmed it will now advise schools to begin reopening from June 1.
While the union had previously expressed concern over the safety of teachers and pupils, its general secretary Geoff Barton said it had been “reassured” following talks on Friday with the Government’s scientific advisers.
However, a number of the country’s largest teaching unions remain firmly opposed to the plans, while two Labour-run councils, Liverpool City and Hartlepool, have said that schools will not begin to reopen on June 1.
Calling on them to think again on Sunday, Mr Gove told the Andrew Marr Show warned that children only had “one chance at education” and that failing to reopen risked widening the attainment gap between rich and poor.
countries like Denmark can be teaching children and have them back in schools, then so should we,” he added.” data-reactid=”25″>”If progressive countries like Denmark can be teaching children and have them back in schools, then so should we,” he added.
“The whole point about being a teacher is you love your job. It is a mission, a vocation, to be able to excite young minds.”
Speaking during an earlier interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge, Mr Gove said that changes to the way classroom layouts and staggered break times would help minimise the risks to pupils.
“The nature of what happens in the classroom has changed,” he added. “Instead of children working around the table they are sitting at desks separate from each other and, as a result, they are able to learn, they are able to benefit from being in school.
“We recognise this requires careful working with teachers. But the leaders of some of the country’s very, very best schools have said they can that they can ensure that children and teachers and other workers are safe.”
Meanwhile, Dr Swaminathan said the evidence from countries where schools have remained open suggest that this has not led to large outbreaks of Covid-19.
“What we have seen in countries where schools have remained open is that there have not been big outbreaks in schools, and where there have been it’s been associated with events – where a lot of people gather, not in regular classrooms, and it’s often been associated with an adult whose had the infection and has spread it,” she said.
However, Dr Swaminathan indicated that the best way to reopen schools would be at a regional or local level, with decisions taken based on the rate of infection in areas and the time required to put social distancing measures in place.
“It’s really important that all the stakeholders, that is the teachers, the children themselves and the parents or caregivers, have had a chance to have a dialogue and ask questions, and be informed of what is being done to minimise the risks and what they need to do,” she continued.