Conservative MPs have pressured the government to get children in England back to school as soon as possible after the health secretary warned any return could be pushed back beyond the Easter holidays.
Since the beginning of the year, most schools have been left out of bounds, only vulnerable students and children of critical workers are allowed to attend to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Although the government never put an end to the formal restriction, Boris Johnson said in early January he hoped to see schools begin to open “after the middle of the February term.”
However, Conservative politicians have urged the government to make the resumption of face-to-face teaching a priority after Matt Hancock warned that pupils will have to continue distance learning until April, with half the period This year’s Easter which will end on the 16th of the month.
Hancock said that while he hoped schools in England could reopen for Easter, it would depend on the levels of infection in the community at the time.
“We have to look at the data, we have to look at the impact of the vaccination program,” he told Sky News.
“The secretary of education has said we will ensure that schools receive a two-week return notice. I don’t know if it will be then or before. We have to look at the data.”
Last Thursday, Gavin Williamson had said he hoped schools could reopen before the April break, though Downing Street declined to approve his comments.
Conservative MPs responded to the prospect of continued school closures by pressuring the government to speed up return to school, and education committee chairman Robert Halfon demanded clarity on when face-to-face education would resume.
Halfon, who has written to the House Speaker to force a response from the Department of Education, urged the government to produce “a coronavirus roadmap to get children back to school.”
Describing the possibility of the closures lasting until April as “terrible news” for parents and students, he wrote on Twitter: “We need to re-learn our children. The engine of government should be geared towards the opening of our schools. On the other hand, we are facing an epidemic of educational poverty and mental health. “
Mark Harper, who has previously opposed large-scale closures in favor of a tiered approach, added: “The Prime Minister himself said last August that ‘keeping our schools closed for a while longer than it is absolutely necessary, it is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible. “I myself could not say better.”
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “Closed schools increase inequality, expose the most vulnerable and create gaps that cannot be filled. We must open schools as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, Esther McVey, the former secretary of labor and pensions, said vaccines should be offered to teachers urgently to ensure a quick and safe return to classrooms.
“Schools need to reopen for the best interest of the child and for families as well,” he said.
“If vaccinating teachers, after the most vulnerable in society, removes barriers to the reopening of schools, we should do so. You can’t close schools or have a viable alternative. “
Hancock said educators have a “good cry” when it comes to placing themselves on the coronavirus vaccine’s priority list once the most clinically vulnerable have received their blows.
So far, along with those over the age of 70 and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, the only staff that have been prioritized for trials have been those of health and social care.
Across the country, more than 6.3 million people have received the first dose of vaccine as of Saturday, representing 9.5% of the UK population.
“The challenge is the supply of vaccines, the supply is the factor that limits the rate,” Hancock said.
“The question is who should have each dose as it comes in … and we have made the decision, with good reason, to go through an order of clinical necessity, starting with those who are most likely to die from this disease.
“Of course, we want to break the chains of transmission, but we also need to stop the death of the disease if they detect it.
“We go through those who are clinically vulnerable … and then there’s a perfectly reasonable debate about who should go in what order afterwards.
“Teachers have received a good shout out for being very much on the list and these discussions continue.”