Restrictions trade-off will be needed to keep schools open during pandemic, Government warns

Discussions will be held today over whether schools should be kept open as a Government’s Covid expert warns restarting classes will mean shut downs elsewhere.

Monday, 28th December 2020, 9:42 am
Updated Monday, 28th December 2020, 9:42 am

Figures in Downing Street are due to meet with officials at the Department for Education today, Monday, December 28, to discuss whether schools should be kept open in the event that harder measures are needed.

It comes as Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the Government hopes the staggered reopening of schools in England will go ahead in January as planned, but echoed the views of experts that trade-offs with other restrictions will be needed.

He said primary school pupils and Year 11 and Year 13 pupils in England would be able to return in the first week of January, with the rest going back later in the month.

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Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove has said keeping schools open is a priority.

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“We are talking to teachers and head teachers in order to make sure we can deliver effectively. But we all know that there are trade-offs,” he said.

“As a country we have decided – and I think this is the right thing to do – that we prioritise children returning to school.

“But we have a new strain and it is also the case that we have also had, albeit in a very limited way, Christmas mixing, so we do have to remain vigilant.

Talks are expected between Downing Street officials and education bosses as they discuss the return of schools and the impact on the pandemic.

“We are confident that we will be able to get schools back in good order.”

Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, has said the arguments for reopening schools in January were “very finely balanced” with pressures to continue to two to three months.

“I think the next few weeks going into January are going to be extremely difficult across the whole country,” Sir Jeremy, director of the Wellcome Trust, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“Certainly my own view is that schools opening is an absolute priority.

"But society – and eventually this is a political decision – will have to balance keeping schools open, if that is possible, with therefore closing down other parts of society.

“It is going be a trade-off between one or other.

"You cannot have everything. You cannot have the whole of society opening, and schools opening and further education and universities, and keep R below 1 with this variant.”

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