Schools reopening with new rules for lunch breaks and drop offs

A phased reopening of schools at the start of June will go ahead as planned in England, the Prime Minister has said.

In a statement this afternoon, which is likely to anger some teachers, parents and unions across Merseyside, Boris Johnson indicated he was pressing ahead with his controversial plan.

At the daily press briefing, the Prime Minister stated the intention was for primary schools in England to open more widely on June 1, but acknowledged it "may not be possible" for all schools.

He said: "This is going to be tough," while thanking teachers and staff who had worked to keep schools operating for the children of key workers and for vulnerable pupils so far during the two months of lockdown.

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Mr Johnson added: "What we will do is make sure that we stagger things and we pace things and we work directly with you, with local authorities, to make sure that there is a plan."

"Protective measures" would be unveiled, he said, including reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small groups.

Also outlined was staggered break and lunchtimes, along with drop-offs and pick-ups, using outdoor space, increased cleaning, and reducing the sharing of items.

Testing for children, their families and staff would be available if they displayed coronavirus symptoms, it was said.

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Liverpool Council was one of the first local authorities to say it does not intend to open schools in line with the government timetable – with dozens of others following suit.

Wirral Council has told schools they can ignore the government’s demand if they think it is not in the best interest of children.

At the end of last week, parents and councillors called on Knowsley Council to prevent the borough’s schools from reopening on June 1.

The council has already said it will prioritise safety over speed in deciding when schools will reopen, but some are lobbying for the local authority to take a firmer line and keep the schools shut to all except vulnerable children and children of key workers.

Dominic Cummings

Sefton Council is looking to open schools on June 15.

Today, Mr Johnson turned to the issue of schools after defending his special adviser Dominic Cummings for driving hundreds of miles from London to Durham, and suggesting he "acted responsibly".

The verdict, which appears to suggest the aide's job is safe, was met with widespread disbelief across the UK.

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Addressing the issue of schools, Mr Johnson said the key to fully reopening schools by September "at the very latest" is to "keep pushing down" the coronavirus R value – the rate at which the disease is transmitted.

The Tory boss added: "That is going to be the most effective way to ensure that not just our schools but all our economy is ready to go back as fast as possible.

"..I acknowledge that the June 1 opening may not be possible for all schools but the government will continue to support and work with the sector so that any schools experiencing difficulties are able to open more widely as soon as possible."

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson who opposes the June 1 school opening plan

He added: "We then intend from June 15 for secondary schools to provide some contact for year 10 and year 12 students to help them to prepare for exams next year, with up to a quarter of these students in at any point.”

"…the education of children is crucial for their welfare, for their long-term future and for social justice.

“In line with the approach being taken in many other countries, we want to start getting our children back into the classroom in a way that is as manageable and as safe as possible.

“We said we would begin with early years’ settings and reception, year one, and year six in primary schools.”

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Mr Johnson said the government was being "deliberately cautious" and promised to work with teachers and unions.

A final decision will be taken by Thursday.