08:47 GMT24 September 2020
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    As millions of pupils in England and Wales return to the classroom this week, education secretary Gavin Williamson has insisted in an open letter that schools are safe, warning that parents who hesitate to send their children back to classes risk putting a "huge dent in their future life chances".

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is laying out the details of his roadmap to “normality” amid the coronavirus pandemic before Cabinet members today, reports the Daily Mail.

    According to a cited government source, Johnson will elaborate his “priorities for the autumn” during a meeting with ministers, as children start to return to the classroom for the new school year.

    “He wants to gradually get back to more normality, and the return of schools plays a big part in that,” the source reportedly said.

    The reopening of schools in the country is being touted as leading the way in the “process of national recovery”.

    “As children go back, more parents will be freed up to return to work. At the same time, [Mr Johnson] wants to get further down the track to recovery on COVID – getting the test-and-trace regime improved and getting the local lockdown process beefed up, so that we never have to have a return to national lockdown. And you will see a doubling down on the agenda from the election – levelling up opportunity across the country,” the government source added.

    Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith also suggested that the reopening of schools would incentivise parents to begin returning to their offices. He summoned employers to “show some backbone” and “start getting their people back to work”, adding:

    “If we don’t get this right, the economy will suffer, people will lose their jobs and more people will die.”

    Another Conservative MP, Steve Baker, also held out the hope that as schools reopen, “parents will start to return to the office”.

    “With that, our town centres can be rescued from ruin. The future is bleak indeed if parents stay at home,” Baker was cited as saying.

    Trailblazing National Recovery

    Millions of children return to classrooms this week for the first time in almost six months, as some 40 percent of schools in England, closed on 20 March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are expected to open today.
    The remainder are set to reopen later in the week.

    General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Geoff Barton applauded the reopening schools as “a vital step in the process of national recovery”, and praised staff for all the “meticulous planning” ahead of the reopening.

    ​This comes as ministers have been fearing that many parents will hesitate to send their children back to school.

    Education Secretary Gavin Williamson appealed to sceptics on Monday, emphasising that returning children to classrooms is vital “not only for their education but for their development and well-being too”.

    "If a child is not in school, they stand to lose far more than just a few months of learning. It could well put a huge dent in their future life chances," Williamson said in an open letter to parents.

    As a last resort, it has been suggested that parents be fined for keeping their children away from school without sufficient reason. Fines could range from £60 to£120.

    However, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), has spoken out against this, suggesting that “a fine is unlikely to make you feel any safer”.

    FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson arrives at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), ahead of a cabinet meeting to be held at the FCO, for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown in London, Britain July 21, 2020.
    © REUTERS / Stefan Rousseau/Pool
    FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson arrives at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), ahead of a cabinet meeting to be held at the FCO, for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown in London, Britain July 21, 2020.

    As schools reopen, a report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) suggested that pupils may have fallen by as much as three months behind due to the coronavirus lockdowns, with boys faring worse than girls, writes the Independent.

    A survey of nearly 3,000 school leaders and teachers showed that 98 percent felt students were not progressing with their learning as would normally be expected at the end of the 2019/20 school year.

    Almost a quarter of teachers from more than 2,200 primary and secondary schools also believed boys had fallen further behind than girls.

    Topic:
    2020 Coronavirus Outbreak (489)

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    Iain Duncan Smith, lockdown, schools, Gavin Williamson, coronavirus, COVID-19, Boris Johnson
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