There is “a moral duty” to get all children back to school in England next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
In the Sunday Mail, he said it was the “national priority” after months without in-person education during the coronavirus pandemic.
Government advisers have warned of the risks associated with the company’s plans to open up.
The PM has reportedly made it clear that schools should be the last area to close during future local lockdowns.
A Downing Street source said Mr Johnson believes the damage to children’s educational prospects and mental health by not attending school is far more damaging than the risk the virus poses to them.
Schools across the UK have been closed to everyone except vulnerable children and those of critical workers since March and the current plan is for most of the country’s children to return to class next month.
Advice on reopening has been published for England. There are also separate plans for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where schools are due to return on Tuesday.
In his article, Mr Johnson said: ‘This pandemic is not over and the last thing any of us can afford is to get complacent.
“But now that we know enough to safely reopen schools for all students, we have a moral duty to do so. ”
The Prime Minister also warned of the “spiraling economic costs” of the inability to work for parents and guardians.
He added: “Keeping our schools closed longer than necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible. “
Mr Johnson’s comments come after England’s Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said reopening schools’ should be a priority ‘, and criticized ministers for treating children’ as an afterthought blow ”during the crisis.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said this week the government could not “decree” that classroom education would be a priority, as decisions would be made by local health chiefs.
He told the BBC that all children in England will return to school next month, including in areas currently affected by local lockdowns, amid an increase in cases. These include Preston, Greater Manchester, Leicester and parts of eastern Lancashire and West Yorkshire, where measures to restrict social interaction between households have been put in place.
However, a No 10 source said that in the event of future stricter local lockdowns Mr Johnson expects schools to be the last area to close, after businesses like shops and pubs.
The rise in cases in a number of parts of England prompted the Prime Minister to halt the easing of the nationwide lockdown last month.
Speaking at the time, Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, warned that the nation had “probably reached the limit or the limits” of what can be done to safely reopen society .
“What that means, potentially, is that if we want to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of other things,” he said.
Professor Neil Ferguson, former member of the government’s science advisory group Sage, whose modeling led to the decision to impose the lockdown, also suggested that ministers should ‘reverse the easing of restrictions’ to allow a return full time at schools and keep the virus under control.
Meanwhile. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the government needed to improve its testing and traceability system or consider closing pubs before schools reopen.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan: “If we saw the cases increase again, then yes absolutely, the ads would be the first thing I would say should be shut down… I think there are more and more evidence. that pubs are one of the main places this virus spreads. “
Elsewhere, the Labor Party called on the government to end a “jobs bonfire” by providing targeted aid to industries and businesses still shut down by the pandemic.
Bowling alleys, casinos and beauty salons were among the businesses that were barred from reopening at the end of last month, for at least a fortnight.
Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell said it was “clearly illogical and unfair” to prevent some businesses from reopening while ending the job retention program.
On Saturday, the UK reported that 55 more people had died after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 46,566. Another 758 people tested positive for Covid-19.
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