Boris Johnson has insisted parents should “absolutely” send their children to primary schools in areas of England where they are still scheduled to reopen tomorrow.
Speaking after a series of leading education unions called for the immediate return of remote teaching for a brief period amid fears over the prevalence of the new Covid-19 strain, the prime minister claimed: “There is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe”.
But he failed to guarantee all schools, including secondaries, would reopen on 18 January as planned, stressing that the government would “continue to assess” the impact of tier 4 and tier 3 restrictions.
Mr Johnson’s comments came after the education secretary Gavin Williamson was forced into a U-turn on Friday evening, ordering all primary schools in London and areas of the south-east not to resume face-to-face teaching on Monday, in a move he described as a “last resort”.
Across the rest of the country, the vast majority of primary schools will return tomorrow while secondary schools will reopen on a staggered basis, with exam year pupils returning on 11 January and others a week later.
Pressed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme whether parents should their children back to the classrooms on Monday, Mr Johnson rejected the unions’ calls over the weekend and replied: “Yes, absolutely they should in areas where schools are open.
“What we are doing, clearly, is grappling with a new variant of coronavirus which is surging particularly in London and the south east. And that is why we have had to take exceptional measures.”