Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The Prime Minister has stated today that the earliest the government believes it will be safe for the country to admit more pupils back to school will be 8th March.
“As the PM says, it has been a challenge for families to juggle employment and home-learning. School leaders want to see pupils back in class as soon as it is safe to do so.
“What is clear from the Prime Minister’s statement is that there are too many unknowns, such as the effectiveness of the vaccine and the pace at which infections are falling, to put the 8th March date firmly in the diary yet.
“The government now needs to collaborate with school leaders and their teams to make sure that there is a workable plan for lifting the lockdown. This includes reviewing all of the safety measures that schools have been using up to now, to make sure they are still effective.
“The government will also have to put effort into reassuring families that it is safe to send their children back to school – there is a confidence test the government must pass to make the return a success.
“It is also important that the teaching workforce is prioritised for vaccinations. This would give confidence as well as providing a better chance that once lockdown measures are lifted, children’s education is less likely to continue to be disrupted by staff absence and illness.”
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