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If schools stay closed, children's prospects will be affected, ministers warned


Members of the armed forces are drafted to help thousands of school and university students in England get Covid tests.

The Department of Defense said 1,500 military personnel would be deployed to ensure that the testing systems are operational by the time students return for the new semester in January.

Ministers have been warned that closing schools in January would affect children's prospects.

The next semester is already being postponed by a week for most secondary school students to allow for coronavirus tests.

But teaching unions and scientific advisors aim to delay at least a fortnight in the face of an increase in infections.

The Department of Defense will now assemble staff to form local response teams to provide support and telephone advice to institutions that need guidance on the testing process and setting up testing facilities.

If schools stay closed in January, children's prospects will be hurt. The ministers were warned yesterday evening (file picture).

According to the department, support is "mostly through webinars and one-on-one meetings," but the teams would also be on hand to provide personal support at short notice.

Students, in the vast majority of cases, will wipe themselves under the supervision of a school staff or volunteer trained for the role, and teachers are not expected to play a role in the testing process.

The Defense Department added that schools and colleges would shortly receive more information on how to request additional assistance if necessary.

The decision follows successful test pilots carried out in schools in November and December. The work is being carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Education (DfE) and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC).

In the vast majority of cases, students dab themselves under the supervision of a school worker or a volunteer

In the vast majority of cases, students dab themselves under the supervision of a school worker or a volunteer

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The British armed forces are reinforcing themselves again this holiday.

& # 39; You will share considerable experience with tests across the country and the successful school pilots that were conducted this fall.

"We are grateful for the professionalism and dedication that you and our colleagues show in class in getting the students back into class and continuing their education."

The armed forces had previously been enlisted to help with mass tests with pilots in Liverpool in November.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “It is a real intergovernmental effort to ensure secondary schools and colleges have the support, guidance, materials and resources they need to provide quick tests to their staff and students from the start of the semester.

“I am grateful to the armed forces personnel and to all school and university staff, leaders, and volunteers who work to conduct tests.

"This will help break chains of transmission, fight the virus and achieve the national priority of keeping education open to all."

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: "The British armed forces are strengthening again this holiday."

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: "The British armed forces are strengthening again this holiday."

Robert Halfon, Chair of the Commons Education Committee, said, “While we need to be aware of the risks posed by coronavirus, we need to be aware of the risks to academic achievement, mental health and student wellbeing. We must be careful not to embed a new epidemic of educational poverty in this country. & # 39;

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was on Downing Street yesterday to hold crisis talks about reopening schools.

He is said to be interested in sticking to the existing schedule while others in the government are concerned about signs that a new strain of the virus is spreading faster among the youth.

In other developments:

  • Another 41,385 coronavirus cases were confirmed yesterday – a record for a single day – along with 357 deaths;
  • Sir Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, said health workers are "back in the eye of the storm" as infections rise.
  • Millions more homes could be placed under Tier 4 restrictions this week. According to a source, ministers will take any "new steps" to contain the pandemic.
  • A poll found that only 8 percent of Britons will definitely turn down a vaccine.
  • 1,500 military personnel provide planning and training support for examining students and staff.

At yesterday's meeting, No. 10 reportedly asked Mr. Williamson to support plans for secondary school testing. Some school principals have complained that they lack the resources to wipe off all of their students.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove are due to focus on delays for the next term – and Mr Johnson does not want to continue on that course.

Schools were closed to all students except key workers children in March, and many did not return until September.

Any attempt to close it again would cast serious doubt on the fate of next summer's trials. The test initiative announced on the last day of the semester caused consternation among the managers, who now have to hire additional staff.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson reportedly keen to stick to the existing schedule while others in the government are concerned about signs that a new strain of the virus is spreading faster among the youth (file picture)

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson reportedly keen to stick to the existing schedule while others in the government are concerned about signs that a new strain of the virus is spreading faster among the youth (file picture)

The National Education Union has protested the ambiguity and would like a further two-week delay for the new term in office to help suppress the virus.

Patrick Roach of the NASUWT Teachers Union wrote to Mr. Williamson yesterday requesting that schools remain closed for the beginning of the semester and that the latest scientific advice on the new strain be published.

Labor education spokeswoman Kate Green criticized Mr Johnson for his silence. She added: "The country needs to hear from him today, along with the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser, what evidence there is of the spread of the virus, how he plans to minimize disruptions to education and command a clear strategy for schools and colleges Support from parents, students and staff. & # 39;

Sage's scientific advisory group has reportedly pushed for tougher lockdown restrictions to combat the new strain, arguing the R-rate won't drop below 1 without schools closing. Scientists believe that closing secondary schools would have more of an impact than closing elementary schools, as older children are more likely to be infected with Covid-19.

Some school principals have complained that they lack the resources to wipe off all of their students (file picture).

Some school principals have complained that they lack the resources to wipe off all of their students (file picture).

But Molly Kingsley of the Us For Them parenting campaign group said, “It's sad that schooling is even an issue. We are preparing for an ongoing cycle of on-off school education. The government needs to set a marker that education transcends these things. & # 39;

Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, said: “Closing schools is the worst thing we can do for the future life of students, especially the poorest children.

“Any decision to refuse schoolchildren should not underestimate the long-term scar effects. Our research reveals high levels of education and economic inequalities following the pandemic, which are likely to have serious consequences for future social mobility. & # 39;

Education watchdog Ofsted said in its annual report that distance learning "is not a substitute for classroom learning". Adam Finn, Professor of Pediatrics at Bristol University, told Radio 4 & # 39; s World at One, “It must be a priority for all of us to maintain some type of education, not just for the education and social development of children, but within in some cases for their safety and nutrition. & # 39;

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove tend to lean on delays for the next term. Mr Johnson does not want to continue this course (file picture).

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove are due to focus on delays for the next term – and Mr Johnson does not want to continue on that course (file picture).

Chris McGovern, Chair of the Real Education Campaign, said, “Millions of children are being harmed in terms of both mental health and academic performance. We cannot continue robbing children.

“We're not talking about closing hospitals, so we shouldn't be talking about closing schools either.

"I have sympathy for the profession and great admiration for the teachers, but perhaps the answer is that the parents make the decision whether to send their child to school."

Mr Gove said yesterday that ministers would speak to school principals for the next 48 hours to make sure the test plans were "robust". But he also told Sky News: "We always check things out."

A government spokesman said: "We would like all students to return in January as the school is the best place for their development and mental health, but it is right that we follow the path of the pandemic and constantly review our approach. Our huge expansion of rapid tests will help secondary schools and colleges stay open to all students and reduce the risk of transmission. & # 39;

Q&A: Why closings are so ruinous

Is the new mutation really more contagious in children?

Controversial epidemiologist Neil Ferguson told MPs last week that there was a "statistically significant increase in cases" under the age of 15, citing anecdotal evidence of an acceleration in classroom infection rates. But as the professor at Imperial College London confirmed, scientists still don't know enough to be sure. Keeping schools open has always been a calculated risk as ministers reconciled an increase in the R-rate with protecting the future of the children.

Will closings hit education?

It is generally agreed that closings have harmful effects on children, with the poorest suffering the most, as they "tend to have fewer educational opportunities outside of school," says Unesco. Ofsted has detailed information on children going backwards in basic skills like reading and writing, as well as an increase in emotional problems, eating disorders and self harm.

Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said many children may be "at least six months behind where they should be" by now.

The government has to hope that the mass handovers of laptops to poorer families, as well as the extensive work that schools have done to improve distance learning, will make possible closings less of an educational disaster than previous ones.

What is the risk for teachers?

Preliminary research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has found the new strain of the virus is spreading 56 percent faster than the original variant, while other estimates suggest it could be up to 70 percent. There is no evidence that it is more harmful to health, but suggestions that it can spread faster and infect children more easily have worried teachers.

Are teachers prioritized for vaccination?

Teachers are not on the priority list, but that could change, especially if the Oxford / AstraZeneca stitch approval speeds up the program dramatically. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Vaccination lists teachers as being in the second phase, along with other professions such as those involved in the military, justice, and transportation.

Do tests work in schools?

The government and education leaders agree that regular testing in schools would help protect teachers and limit outbreaks in children.

Daily testing of people who come into contact with a case also means they don't need to isolate at home unless they test positive too.

But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson appears to have blown teachers' goodwill with his last-minute plan to test secondary school students.

In theory, all of them should have been tested by the end of next week, even though schools received instructions two days before Christmas – and the first series of tests will be delivered next Monday.

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