UK lockdown: Hartley-Brewer lashes with doctor in debate
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Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green hit out at Boris Johnson for his handling of school closures during the Covid pandemic. Labour has called for a vote on the Children’s Recovery Plan before the summer holidays begin. But Julia Hartley-Brewer said it was a “bit rich” for Labour to attack the Prime Minister after insisting schools should close.
The talkRADIO presenter said: “It’s a bit rich for the Labour Party to be saying, ‘isn’t it terrible all these children lost out on education’ when the Labour Party kept calling for schools to be closed.
“We never needed to close schools, many countries kept their schools open during the height of the pandemic and were absolutely fine.
“It’s a bit rich for you to say we’re got all this trouble, we need to do something about it.
“You were supporting the thing that created the problem in the first place.”
Ms Green replied: “I don’t think I was, Julia. If you look back at everything I’ve said when I first came into the post a year ago, we’ve always been absolutely clear that schools should be the last to close, the first to open.
“We were very, very clear the best place for children to be was in school.
“There was of course a really difficult time in the new year when we were getting advice from SAGE that unless we close schools for a short time the R rate would not fall below one.”
It comes as the proportion of pupils attending state schools in England dropped in the week before half-term amid concerns about the Delta variant of coronavirus, Government figures show.
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Around 88 percent of state school pupils were in class on May 27, down from 91 percent on May 20, according to the Department for Education (DfE) statistics.
The DfE estimates that approximately 1.8 percent of all pupils, around 139,000 children, on roll did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons on May 27, compared to 1.3 percent the previous week.
But in the North West of England, where there has been an increase in coronavirus cases, around 4 percent of pupils did not attend school on May 27 for Covid-19 related reasons, according to the DfE analysis.
Nearly a third (31 percent) of secondary school pupils and more than a fifth (21 percent) of primary school pupils in Bolton were absent linked to Covid-19 on the week before half-term, the figures suggest.
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Overall, across England, the data suggests that 116,000 pupils were out of class and self-isolating on May 27 due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus, compared to 82,000 the previous week.
The figures come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged pupils returning to class this week after half-term to get tested to ensure they are not asymptomatically carrying the virus.
School leaders’ unions are calling on the Government to be cautious before any further easing of Covid-19 restrictions and to be proactive to ensure that transmission in schools does not “proceed unchecked”.
On the week before half-term, 90,000 pupils were self-isolating due to a potential contact with a Covid-19 case from inside the school, up from 60,000 on May 20, a rise of 50 percent.
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