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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. 

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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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Government could pay overweight people to exercise as part of new scheme to tackle obesity

The UK ranks fourth in the world for its obesity rate

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In efforts to reduce the UK’s obesity levels, the government could start paying overweight people to exercise and help them lose weight.

The UK ranks fourth in the world for its obesity rate with 63% of adults in England and one in three children starting secondary school are classed as overweight or obese. Health officials want to drive down these numbers.

With help from Sir Keith Mills – who founded the Nectar customer loyalty programme – ministers are set to receive advise on incentives and rewards that could be used to help create healthier diets and encourage people to become more physically active. 

They will also look at successful schemes from around the world including the step challenge in Singapore. 

The step challenge encouraged people to walk as they gained more ‘health points’ which eventually turned into money from the government.

Sir Keith could recommend the government roll out this type of scheme in the UK, as part of the new scheme to tackle obesity.

The government has announced a £100m package to help fight obesity with over 70m going towards weight management services in the NHS and councils.

This could mean up to 700,000 adults have access to courses such as Weight Watchers and Slimming World to help keep track of their diets and have regular weigh-ins.

A further £30m could be used on other initiatives such as the Better Health campaign that gives tips on weightloss and exercise through an NHS app.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the drive to tackle obesity has become even more urgent once it emerged that being overweight can increase people’s chances of becoming seriously ill or being admitted to hospital with the virus.

The World Obesity Federation analysed coronavirus death figures and found that in countries where more than half the population are overweight, deaths are ten times higher. The UK ranked among the worst countries.

The WOF explains that hundreds of thousands of deaths could have been avoided if countries had done more to reduce obesity in their populations.

After prime minister Boris Johnson was hospitalised after contracting the virus in April last year, he started openly speaking about his efforts to lose weight.

The Prime Minister said: “Losing weight is hard, but making small changes can make a big difference. If we all do our bit, we can reduce our own health risks – but also help take pressure off the NHS.

“This funding will give extra support to people across the country who want to lose weight too.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “The urgency of tackling obesity has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from Covid-19, so it’s vital we take action on obesity to protect the NHS and improve our nation’s health.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Living with obesity can have a devastating impact on people’s health and wellbeing in so many ways, not least its link this year to the increased risk from Covid.

“This investment will greatly boost services for adults struggling with their weight and raising the profile of our Better Health campaign will help to support more people to make healthier choices.”

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Liam Gallagher has brutal message for the government over the proposed 1% NHS pay rise

He didn’t hold back

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Liam Gallagher has taken to Twitter to give his opinion on the NHS pay row. 

The outspoken singer has weighed in on the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff this year.

It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock described the country’s finances as ‘tight’, leaving nurses across the country – who have played a vital role throughout the pandemic – angered.

Liam kept things simple, tweeting: “Give the NHS and care workers a proper pay rise you wankers LG x”

One follower said: “Our NHS has been our front line in this battle with covid and we’ve done what? Clapped? Cracking. That makes it worthwhile.”

A second added: “Thanks Liam I’m an NHS worker and it’s gutting this 1% that is being offered.”

Matt Hancock was faced with a question from a nurse during yesterday’s press conference, wondering how the government would have coped without nurses throughout the pandemic.

In response he said: “It’s an incredibly important point that we need more nurses – not just the nurses that we have now – and we have a clear manifesto commitment to 50,000 more nurses in the NHS, and I am delighted that there are more than 10,000 more nurses that have joined the NHS over the last 12 months.

“Also we have seen an increase of 34%, so more than a third, in the number of applications to nursing.

“And of course over the past three years nurses have had a 12% pay rise.

“The challenge is that the nation’s finances are tight and whilst everyone else is going to get a pay freeze we are able to propose a pay rise for nurses of 1%.

“I appreciate that that reflects the difficult financial circumstances that the country is in.

“What I would say to every nurse who is watching and everybody that is working so hard is we have over this pandemic pulled together in an incredible way and I hope we can continue to do that to deliver for patients and also to support our NHS and welcome many, many more nurses into the NHS in the years ahead.”

The Royal College of Nursing has put together a £35m fund that can be used to help compensate nurses if they strike following the low pay offer.

Members of the public are being asked to take part in a mass ‘slow clap’ for nurses on Thursday at 8pm, to mock the governments’ previous clap for the NHS campaign.

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Mental health nurse fined £10,000 after organising protest over ‘offensive’ NHS 1% pay rise

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The nurse who organised a protest in Manchester city centre yesterday about the ‘offensive’ 1% pay rise for NHS workers will be fined £10,000.

Mental health worker and Unison rep, Karen Reissmann attended the demonstration in St Peter’s Square on Sunday at midday. 

Attendees were wearing masks and cones were marked on the floor to help everyone maintain social distancing. 

However, Karen, aged 61, was spoken to before the protest could go ahead by officers from Greater Manchester Police. 

Officers explained that due to the current Covid-19 restrictions the protest would be illegal.

Karen explained that the protest would have to end to those in attendance and the gathering dispersed.

Once the crowd had dispersed, Karen spoke to officers on the edge of St Peter’s Square and was told she would be handed the £10,000 fine. 

A 65-year-old woman who stayed with Karen was arrested for ‘failing to provide details having refused the opportunity to leave when asked’. She was later de-arrested after providing details and was given a £200 fine. 

Around 40 people attended the gathering according to a statement released by GMP on Sunday afternoon. They added that officers engaged early ‘using the first of the four Es approach – engaging, explaining and encouraging compliance with legislation.’

Supt, Caroline Hemingway said: “With the positive step of schools reopening tomorrow, it is vital that people continue to follow Government legislation on social distancing and avoid gathering illegally in large numbers. 

“Regardless of one’s sympathies for a protest’s cause, we would ask the public to maintain social distancing and follow legislation to prevent a rise in infections and provide the best possible chance of a further easing of restrictions in the weeks to come.

“We sought to engage with and peaceably disperse those attending this afternoon’s protest, explaining that the gathering was in contravention of Government lockdown rules.

“Unfortunately officers were met with a degree of non-compliance and it was therefore necessary to enforce issue FPNs.”

Speaking to the crowd, Karen said: “Unfortunately the police have told us we can’t proceed with this despite what’s going on in the health service.

“We’ve been told we will not be able to go ahead with this, I’ll be fined and reported to my employer and disciplined and people here will be fined as well, so we will therefore be shutting it down.

“I think we’ve made the point we wanted to make, we sent a message to the government. I think it’s outrageous that somehow this is deemed illegal when the size of the crowd here will be ten times bigger in hundreds and thousands of schools tomorrow morning.

“This isn’t about safety, this is about the government trying to stamp down on protest which I think is a dying shame. The health service will lose out.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Karen pay the fine. 

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