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Andy Street: Schools across England must reopen at same time

By Richard Guttridge | Education | Published: | Last Updated:

Schools across England should be reopened at the same time rather than region by region, the West Midlands Mayor has said.

Could more pupils soon be back in the classroom?

Andy Street said he was "very wary" of suggestions of regions taking different approaches over reopening schools.

Primary schools are due to open to all pupils from June 1 as part of the Government's easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

However, officials in Liverpool have voiced concerns and stated they are not going to put children "at risk" by sending them back to school too soon.

Mr Street said it would ultimately be down to headteachers to decide if their schools were safe to reopen but that he was against some parts of the country opening up while others stay closed.

He said: "We've got to be very, very wary of that. One of the things that has worked very well is having an England-wide approach because it's made everything easy for people understand.

"I don't want to lose that if I'm honest and so I hope we will move in lock-step with other regions, I think it will be easier to understand, the public will buy in.

Mayor Andy Street

"Where I do think we'll have to be ready for something different is the idea if we see an outbreak in a particular town, just as is occurring in Germany already, then really tight restrictions in a close locality. I don't mean just the whole of the West Midlands but being really precise when we've got the tracking and tracing arrangement.

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"I would hope that we stick to an England-wide approach for the relaxation of restrictions. Having said that, the ultimate arbiter of who will open schools is the headteacher because just like any other business the person running the premises has to vouch for the safety of those premises."

Labour West Midlands Police and Crime and Commissioner David Jamieson said he was concerned about children who have lost on months of education and were potentially at risk of falling into a life of crime.

He said: "The Government should be talking to unions and local authorities involved. The announcement came along and then after everyone realised there were problems.

"You are only eight years old once. You don't get a second chance at this. You can't come back at it at a future date. The Government has got to get this right."

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He added: "It looks like a large number of children aged 11-15 may not be in school until September. They could have missed six months of their education.

"These are groups County Lines gangs recruit into criminality. That is a profound worry."

On the suggestion of a regional approach, Mr Jamieson said: "If there are differential rules for different parts of England, as the Government appear to be suggesting, that is a very bad thing."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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