Coronavirus UK Updates: Williamson insists schools can reopen safely

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Coronavirus UK Updates: Williamson insists schools can reopen safely
Coronavirus UK Updates: Williamson insists schools can reopen safely

We begin with education secretary Gavin Williamson, who has said that the government’s plan to accelerate school reopening has been guided by advice that coronavirus is unlikely to spread in the classroom.

In a statement, Williamson said that the “latest research … one of the largest studies on the coronavirus in schools in the world” – believed to be a reference to a Public Health England report looking at 20,000 pupils and teachers in 100 schools across England at the end of the summer term – has shown that makes it clear “there is little evidence that the virus is transmitted at school”.

Despite that claim, my colleague Peter Walker reports that unions have warned that the government has no “plan B” if cases do start rising. He writes:

However, there are concerns from unions that there is no “plan B” for schools if cases do start rising rapidly. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the Telegraph that part-time teaching such as “week-on, week-off” rotas could be needed in some instances.

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, says testing should be available if schools are to reopen:

I’m not an expert in testing, but I would say that regular means weekly. It needs to be as regular as it needs to be to ensure the infection is caught and identified as soon as possible, and then the tracking system can move on from that.

Schools minister Nick Gibb rejected that call, saying there would not be “routine testing without symptoms. The advice that we have is that it’s better to test when people actually show symptoms.”

Boris Johnson will be visiting a classroom this morning to emphasise the message that it’s safe for schools to reopen.

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