Boris Johnson must have a Plan B ready if schools shut: The Yorkshire Post says

Boris Johnson deserves praise for his determination that schools should reopen in full to all pupils after the summer holidays - but there is reason to be concerned about the Prime Minister’s attitude towards how future local lockdowns could affect education.

Boris Johnson poses during a visit to St Josephs Catholic School in Upminster to see how new Covid-19 preparedness plans had been put in place on August 10, 2020 in London, (Photo by Lucy Young - WPA Pool / Getty Images)

Mr Johnson told reporters while visiting a school yesterday that he “very much hopes” schools would not be forced to close as a result of local action to manage future Covid outbreaks.

Despite the current intention that schools would remain open if possible even in areas under local lockdowns, “hope” does not go far enough when there is a very real possibility of such a scenario unfolding on a repeated basis. It was also hoped earlier in the year that coronavirus would not see schools close to all but for a very small number of pupils; but they did have - to the undoubted detriment of millions of children.

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While schools are required to have in place their own contingency plans if they need to shut their doors, there should be a clear national Plan B to guide educational establishments and local councils should a second spike occur either in one particular region or across the country. By spelling out what action should be taken in different scenarios, schools and colleges can prepare in a unified way while parents and children can be more ready for what to expect should temporary closures come to pass.

The Association of School and College Leaders has suggested a back-up plan involving a rota system of children in for one week and then learning at home for one week. Such an system would be very far from ideal - especially for working parents - but would be an undoubted improvement on children being solely reliant on home schooling as so many have been for the past six months.

Mr Johnson is an optimist by nature but the coronavirus crisis demands planning for the worst, as well as hoping for the best.

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James Mitchinson