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1,500 schools expected to defy government advice on reopening

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Manchester Council has said it is ‘highly unlikely’ schools in the region will be reopened on June 1st – and across the country it’s expected that around 1,500 schools will defy the government’s plans to reopen.

Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, said today that he was not expecting everyone to be back by the date announced by the government, with at least 18 councils vowing to go against the government’s plans. 

Government officials announced that schools should prepare to open on June 1st, bringing reception, year one and year six back to schools in reduced class sizes if it is safe to do so. 

Credit: CDC / Unsplash

The government has issued a detailed plan on how to make sure classrooms are safe for both students and teachers. The plan includes offering a maximum class size of 15, keeping desks far apart and ensuring soap is in every toilet.

However, the plan experienced fierce backlash with many unions warning teachers not to go. Councils across the country have said they will not enforce the reopening of schools. 

Manchester Council and Salford Council have both said that it is ‘highly unlikely’ that schools in the region will reopen inline with the government’s plan next month. 

Elsewhere in Greater Manchester, Stockport Council confirmed its school wouldn’t open until June 10th at the earliest, while Rochdale said they won’t reopen them until it’s safe for kids and staff.

In Bury, the council announced they would not reopen schools ‘while high levels of Covid-19 remain’ in the region.

Credit: Astronomy & Society Group / Flickr

In a statement, Manchester Council said: “We’re very clear that in any plan the safety of pupils and staff must be absolutely paramount.

“For this reason, in our primary schools it is highly unlikely that children in the government identified priority year groups will be able to attend school full-time from June 1, and may also mean that some schools have to prioritise certain year groups, and not make an offer to them all.”

Manchester’s council executive member for children and schools, Councillor Garry Bridges, said that the announcement from the Prime Minister last week ‘raised more questions than answers’. 

He said: “The government guidance is unworkable and it’s highly unlikely schools in Manchester will be open for all children in the prescribed year groups from 1 June as they suggest.

“Most of our schools have in fact been open since the lockdown was enforced to key groups of children, as well as providing home learning and welfare checks. This has included throughout school holidays and in many cases even bank holidays.

“However, rather than follow the government guidance and suddenly increasing the numbers in school to meet arbitrary dates, we’re working with our schools on individual risk assessments to understand how they can safely and gradually over time increase the number of children attending.”

Credit: Andrew Ebrahim / Unsplash

He added: “The government message that ‘schools are reopening on 1 June’ is unhelpful. Manchester parents should only consider sending their child into school from this date if they are contacted directly by their school with the direct offer of a place back in the classroom for their child from then.

“Like all of us I’m worried about the impact on children and young people from not being in school and we all want to see more children back in as soon as they can be, but this needs to be done in a safe, planned, and controlled way.

“We’re in active and positive discussions with our schools and the unions on all of this and will be meeting regularly with them over the coming weeks as their return to school plans are worked through.”

Credit: Element5 Digital / Unsplash

Mr Buckland insisted that the government is ‘working towards’ a June 1st opening date but admitted it was not looking good.

He said: “We always said the 1st of June was conditional, not just on the R-rate but the need to make places of work safe. I am hearing what’s being said by our union representatives and brilliant teachers.

“We have to accept the fact that councils are employers and decisions have to be made collectively.”

There is evidence to suggest that ‘the risk to individual children from Covid-19 is extremely small’, according to the British Medical Association (BMA). 

The chairman of the BMA’s Public Health Medicine Committee said: “The BMA wants schools to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so and the evidence allows – this could be before June 1 or after. A zero-risk approach is not possible. This is about ‘safe’ being an acceptable level of risk.”

The government said each school’s circumstances are individual and if a headteacher felt unable to open next month they should ‘discuss options’ with their local authority or trust. 

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Liz Truss says British workers need ‘more graft’ and lack ‘skill’ of Chinese workers

She was also heard saying workers outside of London have less productivity

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Number 10 / Flickr & Gov.uk

Conservative leader frontrunner Liz Truss has been criticised after saying British workers need ‘more graft’ and lack the ‘skill and application’ of their foreign counterparts.

Just two weeks on from the backlash surrounding her plan to cut the pay of public sector workers in the north, audio obtained by The Guardian heard Truss discussing the work ethic and attitude of British workers and comparing them to those of foreign workers.

During her discussion, said to have taken place five years ago when she was the chief secretary to the Treasury, Truss could be heard saying: “I once wrote a book about this which got mischaracterised… British workers produce less per hour than … and that’s a combination of kind of skill and application.

“If you look at productivity, it’s very, very different in London from the rest of the country… this has been a historical fact for decades.”

She continued: “Essentially it’s partly a mindset and attitude thing, I think. It’s working culture, basically. If you go to China it’s quite different, I can assure you.

“There’s a fundamental issue of British working culture. Essentially, if we’re going to be a richer country and a more prosperous country, that needs to change… But I don’t think people are that keen to change that.

“There’s a slight thing in Britain about wanting the easy answers. That’s my reflection on the election and what’s gone before it, and the referendum – we say it’s all Europe that’s causing these huge problems, it’s all these migrants causing these problems. But actually what needs to happen is more… more graft.

“It’s not a popular message.”

Number 10 / Flickr

A source from Truss’s team has attempted to downplay the audio, telling The Guardian: “These half-a-decade-old comments lack context but one thing that is as clear today as ever before is a need to boost productivity, which leads to higher wages and a better quality of life for workers right across the UK.

“As prime minister, Liz will deliver an economy that is high wage, high growth and low tax.”

However, when questioned about the audio during a Tory leadership hustings in Perth, Truss appeared to confirm she still believed British workers were not as productive as they should be.

When asked whether she stood by her remarks, Truss said: “I don’t know what you’re quoting there [but] what we need in this country is more productivity and we need more economic growth.”

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Andy Burnham confirms bus fares will be capped at £2 a journey from next month

Passengers aged between sixteen and eighteen will also travel for free under the reform

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Alan Sansbury / Wikimedia Commons

Bus fares across Greater Manchester will be capped at £2 a journey and £5 a day from September, Andy Burnham has confirmed today.

In a tweet this morning, the mayor described his announcement as ‘a glimmer of light in tough times’, before revealing the new bus fares will come into force from the first full working week in September.

The fare changes will include:

  • £2 max single fare for adults.
  • £1 max for under-sixteens. 
  • £5/£2.50 unlimited travel in any day.
  • Free travel for passengers aged between sixteen – eighteen.

These new fares will be valid on all routes across Greater Manchester, regardless of the operator. 

In a follow up tweet, Burnham said the cheaper fares will be paid for by ‘more people using buses’, before pointing out that many are ‘a third or half full at the moment’. 

The mayor first unveiled plans to bring Greater Manchester’s buses back under public control in March this year, with a promise to introduce the new fares in 2023 and 2024.

These plans were swiftly fast-tracked and, while the initial plan was for a gradual roll-out across the region, it was then announced that passengers across the whole of Greater Manchester would benefit from the new fares at the same time. 

Burnham previously revealed that the £5 fare will enable passengers to travel from when they buy the ticket until 3.59am the following day, and will be valid for use across various operators. Currently, a daily fare costs £6.40.

However, the maximum £2 for a single journey fare will only work for a single operator, with the London-style ‘Hopper’ fare unveiled in the first announcement currently on hold.

These capped fares come as part of Burnham’s Bee Network vision, which will see Greater Manchester’s public transport system combine trains, trams and buses in an in-sync timetable.

Walking and cycling will also be integrated in an attempt to create a modern, sustainable, and accessible model for the people of Greater Manchester.

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Pop Idol singer Darius Campbell-Danesh dies aged 41

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ITV

Pop Idol singer Darius Campbell-Danesh has died at the age of forty-one, his family have announced today.

The ‘Colourblind’ singer was found dead in his US apartment in Minnesota on August 11th. The cause of his death is not yet known.

His family said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Darius Campbell-Danesh.

“Darius was found unresponsive in bed in his apartment room in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11th and was pronounced dead in the afternoon by the local medical examiners’ office.

“The local police department have confirmed that there were no signs of intent or suspicious circumstances. The cause of his sudden death is unknown at this stage while medical examinations continue.

“We ask that you kindly respect our wishes for privacy at this time whilst we come to terms with the tragic loss of our son and brother.”

Darius first rose to fame in 2002 as a contestant on the ITV singing contest Pop Idol, with him eventually coming in third place behind Will Young and Gareth Gates.

The Scottish singer achieved number one in the UK later that year with his single ‘Colourblind’, while his album Dive In reached the top ten.

Darius then went on to enjoy a successful career on the stage, with him appearing in ‘Chicago’ as Billy Flynn in two runs of the production, as well as ‘Guys and Dolls’, ‘Gone With the Wind’ and many more in the West End.

In 2010, he made returned to television by competing in ITV’s Popstar to Operastar, with him eventually winning. 

Darius previously told The Scotsman in 2014 that he was used to overcoming doubts, and always relied on the advice his father gave him as a youngster.

He said: “Anything is possible if you want it enough and if you’re willing to work hard enough at it and if you don’t give up on it. It can seem overwhelming when you set any challenge and I’ve been told many times in my career that things have not been possible.”

 

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