Keir Starmer has warned Boris Johnson students must return to school next month, ‘no ifs, no buts, no equivocations’.
The Labour leader said he didn’t just want children back in the classroom, but he ‘expected’ it to happen. He added that the PM has a ‘moral responsibility’ to ensure that it does.
Sir Keir also took aim at the Government’s handling of this year’s A-level results, where thousands of pupils in England had their grades downgraded.
Writing in Mail Online, he accused the PM of ‘failing to protect’ children’s education in the same way the Nightingale hospitals were built to save lives and a furlough scheme was set up to save jobs.
He said: ‘We needed to see the same grit and determination to protect our children’s education. Instead, Boris Johnson wasted months flailing around blaming everybody else and refusing to take any responsibility or show any leadership.
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‘His priorities were wrong, too. He set up a ‘task force’ for the reopening of bowling alleys but refused my offer to do the same for schools.’
He added that schools must return ‘no ifs, no buts, no equivocations’.
Mr Johnson wanted schools reopen in the summer and promised a ‘huge amount of catch-up for students’. However, his hopes were dashed following anger from teachers who argued it was unsafe for schools to reopen.
The PM last week struck a conciliatory tone with teachers and unions, telling them everyone had a ‘moral duty’ to ensure schools returned in September.
A new campaign, called #backtoschoolsafely, underlines the measures being put in place to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission and suggests classrooms are ‘the best place’ for pupils to be.
But Sir Kier argued that the government’s track record on education during the pandemic was not good, pointing to rising anger over this week’s release of A-level results.
He added: ‘It was also blatantly obvious when the Scottish Government was forced to U-turn early last week that the UK Government was going to need to take drastic action. And yet they turned a blind eye to the injustice that was exposed on Thursday morning.’
Hundreds of students have protested in Parliament Square over their downgraded results, calling for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to be sacked.
Many pupils have now launched legal action against exam regulator Ofqual to ‘force them to come up with a fairer system’.
It comes after the watchdog was criticised for suspending their criteria for appealing grades using mock results just hours after outlining them on Saturday.
Mr Williamson has vowed there will be ‘no U-turn’ while insisting his ‘absolute priority is fairness’.
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