Schools face ‘enormous battle’ to avoid lockdown in January

The Education Secretary faces an ‘enormous battle’ to keep schools open after the Christmas break, reports say.

Sources close to Gavin Williamson told The Telegraph he is battling ‘lockdowners’ who do not think children should return to secondary schools in January as planned.

Boris Johnson and the Department for Education (DfE) are due to meet tomorrow to discuss warnings that it may be necessary to close schools to slow the spread of coronavirus and the new mutant strain. 

Mr Williamson ‘is trying to keep them open, which is why he rolled out the testing stuff early. He’s facing an enormous battle. It’s the lockdowners [he’s fighting],’ The Telegraph’s source reportedly said.

Last week the Government announced plans for mass testing at secondary schools, with GCSE and A-level pupils, and key workers’ children being sent to class as normal on January 4.

Children in years seven to 10 as well as those in year 12 are set to learn remotely until January 11 when they can return to classrooms.

The DfE is reportedly fighting to keep this staggered return next month but has not ruled out a delay until January 18, a source told The Telegraph.

MPs have been pushing for Mr Williamson to collect data on how the pandemic is disrupting GCSE and A-level pupils. 

Conservative chairman of the Commons education committee Robert Halfon said schools are ‘opening and closing like a revolving door’ which risks ‘damaging the life chances of our next generation’. 

He thinks data on exam-pupils would help inform ministers’ decisions on whether to make ‘adjustments’ to exam marking and identify children who need additional support. 

The new variant of coronavirus is 56% more transmissible than other forms of the virus and is potentially ‘marked’ in children, according to a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

The analysis said a national lockdown, like England did in November, would not slow any spread unless schools were closed too. 

The DfE said: ‘We want all pupils to return in January as school is the best place for their development and mental health, but as the Prime Minister has said, it is right that we follow the path of the pandemic and keep our approach under constant review.

‘Our huge expansion of rapid testing will support secondary schools and colleges to stay open to all pupils and reduce the risk of transmission within local communities.’

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