Schools in some areas could go back BEFORE others, minister suggests

SCHOOLS in some areas may return before others, a minister suggested last night.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse was asked about changing lockdown measures differently across the country – as the rate of spread varies.

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Ministers have left the door open to changing things regionally if there are vast differences in the R rate of infections between regions.

At the moment the North East of England is suffering with more coronavirus cases, but London and the South are not recording as many.

According to experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the East Midlands has the fastest spread of infection with a rate of between 0.8 and 1.2.

London, which has been the hardest hit in the country has a R rate of 0.5 to 0.8 – the lowest in the country.

Mr Malthouse was asked on Radio 4's Westminster Hour last night if that "could lead to different return rates for schools in different parts of the country, is that something that could happen?"

And he replied: "In theory it could. It’s certainly the reason for us setting up this new bio security centre, as I think was outlined when it was announced, so we can monitor the progress of the virus across the country.

"And if localised action is required, it can be taken, if there’s a localised outbreak.

"What the PM was trying to say was this [schools reopening] is conditional on the numbers going in the right direction."

He said it would be "helpful to avoid" differences across the country but stressed that scientists were discussing the matter with the unions at the moment to get kids back as soon as it's safe to do so.

But No10 said they were "not aware" of any plans for schools to go back at different times.

Yesterday Business Secretary Alok Sharma said that regional changes were not on the cards at the moment.

Mr Sharma added that it was "too soon" to discuss a phased lifting of lockdown by region.

Last week the Prime Minister's spokesperson told reporters that in theory, lockdown rules could be eased at different paces across England, but did not specify whether schools would be included.

Previously it had been suggested that the lockdown could be tightened again in areas where there was a high infection rate, still.

At the moment there are also different rules in place between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Rules for seeing one person at a 2metre distance in an outdoor space only applies in England.

And the same goes for unlimited exercise and day trips.

Wales and Scotland said they would be not changing any rules yet and wanted to keep people at home for longer.

Over the weekend a family trying to drive from England into Wales for a trip were stopped and ordered back home.

According to lockdown rules in Wales, people should only leave home if you have a "reasonable excuse" to do so.

Police in England and Wales have issued over 14,000 fines for lockdown breaches during the coronavirus lockdown.

Unions and the Government are locked in an ongoing row about whether it's safe for kids to go back to school from June 1 – as Boris has outlined.

Fuming union bosses have demanded their members don't engage with plans, and have put in a string of demands that must be met first.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today refused to rule out taking action against those who refused to get kids back in school.

But parents have been promised they will not be punished if they keep their kids at home.

His warning came on the same day academies warned poor kids will lose out if they don’t reopen.

Leaders of the trusts from all over Britain warned The Times that the impact of schools remaining closed would be a disaster for the nation’s poorest students.

Professor Alan Smithers, Director of Centre for Education and Employment Research at University of Buckingham warned of "damage that may last for a generation" if kids do not go back to school.

Writing in the Daily Mail, he said: "The future of this country's children…[is] something which I regret to say is now hanging by a thread.

"The reality is this: if our schools are not swiftly reopened, the inequality gap that scars the British education system will become a chasm. The damage inflicted will be, quite literally, beyond repair for a generation of children.

"It is a truly desperate situation, one made all the more humiliating by the fact that we are now lagging behind Western Europe in seeking to reopen our schools."




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