The government refuses to commit to reopening schools before the Easter holidays.
The prime minister and education secretary are coming under increasing pressure to reopen schools and provide a ‘route map’ for the reopening plan.
Rob Halfon, the chairman of the Commons Education Committee, wrote on Twitter that he was seeking ‘clarity’ from the Department for Education and ‘an education route map out of coronavirus to get children learning again at school’.
It comes after growing concern that children are the ‘forgotten victims of the pandemic’.
Former cabinet minister Esther McVey says the government need to take into account the damage the prolonged closures will do to the future prospects of a generation of children.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, she said: “We genuinely seem to have forgotten about the children,”
“Millions of them are missing out on an education, not developing socially with their friends and aren’t allowed to enrich their lives by playing sports and music any more.
“They are the pandemic’s forgotten victims and we’ve got to start thinking about their prospects and futures as well.”
Tory MP, Tom Tugendhat added: “Closed schools increases inequality, exposes the most vulnerable, and creates gaps that cannot be filled. We must open schools as soon as possible.”
A senior government source cautioned that the picture has become ‘more pessimistic’ as slowing infection rates were not falling ‘nearly as sharply as had been expected’, reports The Guardian.
Robert Halfon urges ministers to put ‘the whole engine of the state’ behind paving the way for schools to reopen.
He told The Guardian: “The whole engine of the state must do everything possible to get our schools open after half-term as was originally proposed,
“If it means priority vaccinations for teachers and support staff then it is worth it because despite the efforts of individual teachers and support staff who are doing their best we are facing an epidemic of mental health problems and educational poverty.
“This is putting enormous pressure on parents and families, many of whom have to give up their livelihoods to look after their children at home. With all the laptops in the world, you still need motivation from parents and when they are working that is very hard, especially with younger children.”
General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton said: “At a time when we are worrying about the mental health of young people, the last thing we need now is no one back in school till after Easter,”
Downing Street and the Department for Education are expected to examine the data this week before making a judgment.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said schools will be given a minimum of two weeks notice to plan a return of pupils. He added that he is hoping to be able to give teachers and parents an update this week.
However, it is believed the majority of pupils will not return until at least Easter, despite the government aspiring to have pupils returning to schools from February half-term.
It comes after Matt Hancock told Sky News that we are a ‘long, long, long way off’ easing lockdown restrictions.
The health secretary refused to commit to either mid-February or after Easter as a point for schools to reopen with all pupils.
He told the Andrew Marr Show: “We’re really clear we want to get schools back and as safe as we can, but we have to watch the data,”
“Of course I hope schools go back after Easter and the vaccination programme is going fast. But we’ve got to make sure that we get the cases down and we’ve got to protect the country from new variants coming in from abroad.”
Police restart search for Moors Murders victim Keith Bennett as skull found
The search for murder victim Keith Bennet has resumed as ‘potential human remains’ were found on moorland, police have confirmed.
The remains were found during an independent search on Saddleworth Moor by author Russell Edwards, who reported his discovery to Greater Manchester Police.
Detectives are said to be analysing a small sample of the remains and some clothing, the MailOnline reports.
Twelve year old Bennett was one of the five children tortured and killed by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in the 1960s. His body has never been recovered.
GMP said in a statement: “We have always said that GMP would act on any significant information which may lead to the recovery of Keith and reunite him with his family.
“Officers met with Mr. Edwards yesterday evening (September 29th), and he was able to locate a site of interest and provide us with further details of the work he has been carrying out.
“We are at the very early stages of assessing the evidence which he brought to our attention, but have taken the decision to excavate an area of land with a view to determining what lies there.
“It is far too early to be certain whether human remains have been uncovered, but out of respect for Alan Bennett, who we regularly maintain contact with, we have informed him of this potential development.
“Alan does not wish to be disturbed at this time and we would ask that his request for privacy is respected.”
Bennett was lured into a van by Hindley on June 16th, 1964. He was then taken to Saddleworth Moor, where he was sexually abused and murdered by Brady.
Despite his heartbroken mother’s pleas, neither Brady nor Hindley ever revealed where they had buried his body.
Winnie Johnson continued visiting Saddleworth Moor to search for her son until her death in 2012.
Cause of Queen Elizabeth’s death revealed
Queen Elizabeth’s exact cause of death has been revealed as an extract of her death certificate is released to the public.
The Registrar General for Scotland, Paul Lowe, confirmed that Her Majesty The Queen’s death was registered in Aberdeenshire on September 16th, and that the cause of her death was old age.
The document, released by National Records of Scotland, notes the Queen died at 3.10pm on Thursday September 8th.
The Queen’s only daughter Princess Anne is named as the ‘informant’ on the document, and would have notified the local registrar of her mother’s death.
Anne, who accompanied her mother’s coffin as it travelled from Balmoral to London via Edinburgh, was with the head of state in her last moments.
She said: “I was fortunate to share the last twenty-four hours of my dearest mother’s life.”
Queen Elizabeth was laid to rest on September 19th following a historic seventy-year reign on the throne.
Her Majesty spent four days lying-in-state at Westminster Hall ahead of the state funeral, where around 250,000 Royal well-wishers came to pay their respects and say a final goodbye.
Royal Mail to strike for 19 days with Black Friday and Christmas deliveries affected
Strike action will take place across October and November
Black Friday and Christmas deliveries face delays as Royal Mail workers prepare to strike across the next two months.
The Communication Workers Union announced that action in October and November will be a mixture of ‘single days and rolling action’ across Royal Mail Group’s network.
This includes walkouts from 4am on October 13th for twenty-four hours, and then again on October 20th and 25th, as well as November 28th.
The union said the strike action will have a ‘dramatic impact’ on deliveries, and will cover peak mail periods such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas build-up.
It could also impact Amazon’s second Prime Day, with sale dates for subscribers on October 11th and 12th.
The CWU says the strike action comes following an ‘outrageous’ decision made by the Royal Mail Group’s senior management to withdraw from major national agreements, push ahead with cuts to workers’ terms and conditions and ‘completely sideline’ the union.
General secretary Dave Ward said: “This is a significant announcement, but it is one which matches the level of anger our members feel at the way Royal Mail Group has treated them.
“The chief executive of Royal Mail Group is treating postal workers as if they are stupid. These are the same people that have kept the country connected and returned Royal Mail Group to record profit.
“Postal workers across the UK now face the fight of their lives to save their jobs and the service they provide to every household and business in the UK.”
Ward went on to urge everyone to ‘stand with their local postal worker’, adding: “If Royal Mail Group are allowed to get away with this then it sends a green light to every rogue big business in the UK.
“We will not stand by and see the Royal Mail Group become the next P&O but we need your backing to win.”
However, the Royal Mail says changes are needed as it is currently losing £1million a day. A spokesperson said: “On September 22nd, Royal Mail invited CWU to enter into talks through Acas to find a resolution to our dispute on change and pay.
“This evening, rather than responding to our offer of Acas talks, the CWU announced further damaging industrial action, once again taking the path of prolonging disruption over resolution.
“Royal Mail is losing £1 million a day and must change faster in response to changing customer demands. We operate in a competitive market, and our customers have choices… Further strikes and resistance to transformation by CWU will only make our financial position worse, and threatens the long-term job security of our postmen and women.
“The CWU has a responsibility to recognise the reality of the situation Royal Mail faces as a business and engage urgently on the changes required.
“We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience the CWU’s continued strike action will cause. We are doing all we can to minimise any delays and keep people, businesses and the country connected.”