'Real danger' schools could stay closed until summer, Children's Commissioner warns in blow for parents

THERE is a "real danger" schools could remain closed until the summer over a "lack of planning", the Children's Commissioner has warned.

Anne Longfield said ministers now need to "think creatively" about how to get youngsters back in class and must "make something happen" soon.

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The worrying news comes hours after it was reported parents could be told when schools will reopen within the next few days.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said parents would be given two weeks' notice over the reopening of schools.

However, in a new policy briefing, Ms Longfield warned: "Everyone recognises the necessity of reopening schools as soon as possible, but hope alone will not make it happen.

"What is lacking is a clear roadmap towards this. There is a real danger that schools will remain closed until Easter at the earliest, or even into the summer."

She then added:"Not because the virus makes this inevitable, but because of a lack of planning."

Ms Longfield said it was the role of ministers to "think creatively" about what the different options might be and "explore all possibilities, come up with a plan and ultimately make something happen".

She also set out a number of options for the gradual reopening of schools which included some year groups returning sooner than others and children returning on a rota basis.

The UK went into its third national lockdown at the start of the month as Covid cases rose, with students once again told the study from home.

But with no decision yet made over when physical classrooms will be able to reopen, fears have started to grow that schools won't be reopened any time soon in another blow to parents.

Whitehall insiders had previously insisted schools will be “the first” thing to get back to normal when lockdown is eased – with one option to reopen schools for primary kids first as it is harder for them to work from home using Zoom.

Boris Johnson said yesterday he hopes to be able to relax some lockdown restrictions in three weeks as ministers mull over reopening schools.

The PM had dramatically ordered all schools to shut until the February half term in a bid to get rocketing infection rates under control.

He has previously refused to rule out extending the shutdown, and ministers have previously indicated restrictions will only be gradually eased from around March.

School bosses said they reckon classes will stay shut to most kids until after the Easter holidays, which are at the beginning of April.

And a study has since suggested primary school children could be resistant to Covid.

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Studies by Public Health England has piled on fresh pressure to the PM to reopen schools for younger pupils, after finding there was a "strong case" to get kids behind desks again.

Students in primary schools are "resistant" to soaring coronavirus case numbers and play a small role in spreading new infections, experts concluded.

Only three per cent of primary schools had outbreaks of coronavirus, even while the number of new infections jumped across the UK as the second wave took hold of the nation.

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