Schools and lockdown: PM must be taken to task – The Yorkshire Post says

BORIS Johnson effectively accused Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, of ‘playing politics’ with his call for a national task force to get as many pupils back to school as expeditiously – and safely – as possible.

This was Boris Johnson leaving 10 Downing Street before Prime Minister's Questions.

Yet it is the Prime Minister, with respect, who is doing just that by trying to deflect blame onto Sir Keir’s “friends in the left-wing trade unions” rather than taking the Opposition leader up on his offer.

The issue is not a trivial one. It’s the life chances of some of the most disadvantaged children in society – the very youngsters whose future success is integral to the PM’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.

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It should have been obvious to the PM, and certainly Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, at the outset of this pandemic that the education of the poorest, and most disadvantaged, would suffer most during the lockdown unless alternative learning provision, including laptops, was in place.

To what extent will education attainment suffer during the Covid-19 lockdown?

It should have been clear that some primary schools would not have been in a position to take back all pupils before the summer term ends, the original promise of Mr Williamson, without extra buildings in order to comply with social distancing.

And it should also have been plain that this crisis required the Government to work with schools, LEAs, academies, teachers and unions rather than the haphazard approach pursued by Mr Williamson.

Instead of Mr Johnson playing to his audience, namely those Tory MPs present for Prime Minister’s Questions, he should have been taking up the suggestion of the national task force and convening its first meeting by the end of this week. It’s that urgent.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer clashed on education at Prime Minister's Questions.

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James Mitchinson