Primary schools to reopen in June as part of blueprint to ‘unlock’ Britain

Primary schools are due to reopen as soon as June 1, as part of Boris Johnson’s blueprint for gradually “unlocking” Britain, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

The Prime Minister is expected to unveil the Government’s “roadmap” out of the coronavirus lockdown in an address to the nation next Sunday, after ministers take stock of a study showing the rate of the virus’s transmission in the UK.

One of the plans being discussed to help to reopen workplaces across the country is to ask companies to routinely test asymptomatic staff as part of a national effort to track the disease and isolate those who could be infectious.

Based on the current, reduced infection rate, Mr Johnson is hoping to put teachers on three weeks’ notice to reopen primary schools in England to all pupils on June 1, Whitehall sources said.

Year 10 and Year 12 pupils are then expected to form the first wave of secondary pupils returning to school at a later point, if such a move would be unlikely to increase the transmission rate over the threshold that Mr Johnson warned could result in a dangerous second peak.

The earliest possible return of primary schoolchildren is intended to minimise the threat to “early years development” and help parents to return to work.

On Saturday, Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, said: “Home learning is not easy, particularly when one or both parents are trying to work from home as well.”

In other developments:

 Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports will this week begin requiring travellers to wear face masks and gloves

 Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Andrew Griffith, Mr Johnson’s former business adviser, warns that “every additional day the phone rings unanswered in ‘lockdown’ Britain is an order lost to an overseas competitor whose own economy is open for business”

 A senior bishop signalled the Church of England could accept a temporary relaxation of Sunday trading laws, as Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, pushed for the move in order to boost the economy and allow more time for key workers to shop

 A study by scientists at the University of Dundee found that resuming more than just 10 per cent of pre-lockdown contacts with other people “would risk a second peak”.

On Saturday night, Mr Johnson held talks with the “quad” of senior ministers making key decisions about the lockdown.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement on his first day back at work in Downing Street, London, after recovering from a bout with the coronavirus that put him in intensive care, Monday, April 27, 2020. The highly contagious COVID-19 coronavirus has impacted on nations around the globe, many imposing self isolation and exercising social distancing when people move from their homes. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)© ASSOCIATED PRESS British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement on his first day back at work in Downing Street, London, after recovering from a bout with the coronavirus that put him in intensive care, Monday, April 27, 2020. The highly contagious COVID-19 coronavirus has impacted on nations around the globe, many imposing self isolation and exercising social distancing when people move from their homes. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Whitehall sources said the plan included opening primary schools as early as June 1 – a date that could be pushed back as a result of data due to be delivered to ministers by the Office for National Statistics this week.

Mr Johnson has said it is “vital” to keep the “R” number – the measurement of the Covid-19 transmission rate – below one, meaning the virus is in retreat nationwide.

Last week, it stood between 0.5 and one, giving ministers optimism that they can reopen primary schools as early as June 1.

A Whitehall source said the move was “crucial for economic reasons, to get things moving, but also for educational reasons”, adding “early years development is very important”.

MACCLESFIELD,  UNITED KINGDOM- APRIL 29: People queue for 'walk in' mobile Covid-19 testing on April 29, 2020 in Macclesfield, United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned to Downing Street this week after recovering from Covid-19, said the country needed to continue its lockdown measures to avoid a second spike in infections. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)© 2020 Getty Images MACCLESFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM- APRIL 29: People queue for ‘walk in’ mobile Covid-19 testing on April 29, 2020 in Macclesfield, United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned to Downing Street this week after recovering from Covid-19, said the country needed to continue its lockdown measures to avoid a second spike in infections. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, secondary school pupils “can do a lot more at home and online. They are not as pressing as primary schoolchildren, who we know need a lot of attention”.

On Saturday, Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said there were “some signs that potentially younger children are less susceptible to disease and potentially transmit it less”.

Officials are believed to be working on detailed plans for the safest way to reopen schools, with possibilities including temporary limits on class sizes.

The question of when to reopen nursery schools remains a live discussion.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 29: UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock leaves 10 Downing Street on April 29, 2020 in London, England. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned to Downing Street this week after recovering from Covid-19, said the country needed to continue its lockdown measures to avoid a second spike in infections. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)© 2020 Getty Images LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 29: UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock leaves 10 Downing Street on April 29, 2020 in London, England. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned to Downing Street this week after recovering from Covid-19, said the country needed to continue its lockdown measures to avoid a second spike in infections. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

ONS survey data due to be issued this week is expected to give ministers the clearest picture yet of how the disease is spreading in the UK.

A source said “a lot of the strategy” would depend on the findings.

This week the Government is also expected to focus on measures intended to encourage those already permitted to work to return to construction sites and factories.

Those who work in offices and can carry out their roles from home are likely to be encouraged to continue to do so.

Medical staff and workers take part in a national "clap for carers" to show thanks for the work of Britain's NHS (National Health Service) workers and other frontline medical staff around the country as they battle with the novel coronavirus pandemic, outside of the ExCeL London exhibition centre, which has been transformed into the "NHS Nightingale" field hospital in London on April 30, 2020. - Britain is "past the peak" of its coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday, despite recording another 674 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the toll to 26,711. "For the first time, we are past the peak of this disease... and we are on the downward slope," Johnson said in his first media briefing since returning to work following his own fight against the virus. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)Medical staff and workers take part in a national “clap for carers” to show thanks for the work of Britain’s NHS (National Health Service) workers and other frontline medical staff around the country as they battle with the novel coronavirus pandemic, outside of the ExCeL London exhibition centre, which has been transformed into the “NHS Nightingale” field hospital in London on April 30, 2020. – Britain is “past the peak” of its coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday, despite recording another 674 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the toll to 26,711. “For the first time, we are past the peak of this disease… and we are on the downward slope,” Johnson said in his first media briefing since returning to work following his own fight against the virus. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Dr Harries said the public needed “very clear messaging to understand when to come out and to be reassured that it’s safe”.

Last week, senior civil servants from the business department are said to have asked business groups about the practicalities of introducing workplace testing.

Several senior government and corporate figures believe the UK will end up with such regimes as part of a national “track and trace” strategy intended to pinpoint and isolate cases of the virus.

A Yale study suggesting that new saliva tests are a “more sensitive” alternative to the swab tests currently administered by the NHS, has led to optimism that workplace testing of asymptomatic staff could become routine, with samples handed to office managers or human resources staff to send to labs.

This week, the NHS’s South Korea-style contact tracing system is expected to be piloted on the Isle of Wight.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has not set a date for schools reopening.

Schools will remain closed, except for children of critical workers and vulnerable children, until the scientific advice indicates it is the right time to reopen and the five tests set out by Government to beat this virus have been met.

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

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