The Speaker
Sunday, 19 May 2024 – 17:34

Coronavirus: Johnson urges parents to send children to school, amid debate on safety of schools

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that parents should ‘absolutely’ send their children to school tomorrow, speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

The question was posed to Mr Johnson on Sunday morning after the UK’s largest education union, the NEU advised their members in primary schools on Saturday that it is ‘unsafe’ for them to return to work.

Speaking on the BBC’s Marr show, Mr Johnson said “There is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe”, also saying the risk to children is “very, very low” and the benefit of education is “so huge”. Mr Johnson did though say that restrictions in England are “probably about to get tougher” in order to tackle the rising rates of Coronavirus.

There have been growing calls for all schools in England to remain closed, with concerns over the safety of schools and the effects that schools could have on the wider Coronavirus pandemic in the country. 

Cases of COVID-19 have been rising rapidly across the UK recently, fuelled by the new variant of COVID-19 which is thought to be around 70% more transmissible than the previous variant. It is understood that the SAGE committee (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) advised the Government on 22 December that the ‘R’ rate of the virus would remain above 1 unless schools are closed, and that there is uncertainty whether even closing schools would be enough to control the new variant of the virus. 

Following the claim by Mr Johnson that schools ‘are safe’, the National Education Union tweeted;

“Schools are safe says @BorisJohnson on #Marr. The science says the complete opposite.

“If the Prime Minister of our country won’t #MakeSchoolsSafe to #ProtectCommunities then the 450,000 strong NEU will.”

180,000 people have so far signed a petition by the NEU for an immediate move to online learning for all pupils other than for vulnerable children and those of key workers. The union’s members are also being advised to not go into work on Monday, but instead, be available to teach remotely. A meeting of 26,000 unions members is set to be live-streamed on social media at 11am this morning. 

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman has said school closures should be ‘kept to the absolute minimum’, while the Green Party has supported calls for a move to online learning. Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green is yet to publicly comment on the situation.


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