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.”
Sue Gray report set to be ‘published in full next week’ as partygate investigation ends
The police announced the end of their investigation today
The long-awaited Sue Gray report into Downing Street misconduct during the Covid pandemic is due to be published in full next week as the police’s investigation concludes.
The report – which investigated a series of alleged breaches of Covid lockdown in 10 Downing Street and Whitehall – was completed in January, but the publication of the full document was delayed at the request of the Metropolitan Police as they completed their own investigation.
But today, the police announced their inquiry into Downing Street lockdown breaches has come to an end, meaning Gray’s report could be published as soon as next week.
A source close to Gray and her team said she now intends to publish her report ‘as soon as possible’, adding that it could come as early as next week, according to The Independent.
The shortened version of Gray’s report noted that there was a ‘serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government, but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time’.
Gray also stated that because the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is ‘difficult to justify’.
Stand-out points from the report include:
- There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times.
- The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time.
- The use of the garden at No 10 Downing Street should be primarily for the Prime Minister and the private residents of No 10 and No 11 Downing Street.
- The leadership structures are fragmented and complicated and this has sometimes led to the blurring of lines of accountability.
- Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so.
The police’s investigation resulted in a total of 126 fines, known as Fixed Penalty Notices, being issued for events across eight different dates.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were both fined for their involvement in parties and events held during the lockdowns.
Twenty-eight people have been issued with more than one fine, the force added.
Full judicial review into inquest of Yousef Makki granted by judge
A judge has granted permission for a full judicial review into the inquest of Burnage schoolboy Yousef Makki.
The family of the seventeen-year-old – who died after being stabbed by friend Joshua Molnar in Hale Barnes in 2019 – called for a review to overturn the coroner’s verdict on his death, which failed to conclude whether he had died either unlawfully or accidentally.
An application was made to High Court by a QC acting for Yousef’s father, Ghaleb Makki and, today (May 18th), at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre, the review was granted.
Yousef’s father said of the decision: “There’s still a long way to go, but it’s a small step in the right direction.”
Matthew Stanbury, representing the Makki family, claimed the coroner’s ruling was ‘inevitable’ due to the failure to analyse and ‘grapple’ with central issues in the case.
Mr. Stanbury said: “Today is a significant step forward and we are optimistic about getting a fresh inquest.”
Yousef died after being fatally stabbed in the heart by Joshua following an argument on the evening of March 2nd 2019.
The former public school student had met Joshua at Manchester Grammar School, where he had won a bursary to attend.
Joshua, who comes from a wealthy family in Hale, later admitted to stabbing Makki with a knife he had bought online ‘with ease’ during a school break time.
However, a jury acquitted Joshua, now twenty, of murder and manslaughter later that year, with him instead been handed a sixteen-month detention and training order after admitting possessing the knife which inflicted the fatal injury and lying to police at the scene.
He says he acted in self-defence, alleging Yousef pushed and punched him and called him ‘p*ssy’.
Following November’s inquest, Senior South Manchester Coroner Alison Mutch recorded a narrative conclusion, saying: “Yousef died from complications of a stab wound to chest.
“The precise circumstances in which he was wounded cannot, on balance of probabilities, be ascertained.”
The family’s formal application argued the coroner’s ruling was ‘unreasonable’ as it ‘failed to address or make findings on central matters in the case such as to enable her to reach a conclusion – on the balance of probabilities – as to the lawfulness of the killing’.
Teenage girl rushed to hospital after being ‘badly’ bitten on face by dog
The teenage girl was allegedly helping an elderly man get his dog back into its harness
Police are appealing for information after a teenage girl was ‘badly’ bitten on the face by a dog in a Trafford park.
The incident happened in Navigation Park in Altrincham last night (May 17th) at around 9pm, when the victim, aged seventeen, attempted to put the dog’s harness back on.
While she was doing this, the dog allegedly bit her on the face and cheek, causing ‘substantial’ injuries.
She then had to go to the hospital for treatment.
In a post on the GMP Trafford South Facebook page, police implored for witnesses to come forward with more information about the incident and the man and dog involved.
The statement reads: “On the evening of 17th May 2022, at around 2100hrs, there has been an incident in Navigation Park, Altrincham involving a male who was in company with a dog and a 17-year-old female who has been badly bitten by the dog present.
“The male has been described as a white male, approximately 70 years old, around 5ft 9, unstable on his feet, wearing a long brown leather jacket, with a bobble hat and a walking stick.”
The police went on to describe the dog as a ‘mostly white dog, similar to a Labrador however crossed with another breed with a small amount of ginger fur on its back’.
It was also noted that the dog was ‘quite skinny’ and wore a red harness.
The statement continued: “The female had been helping the owner put the dog’s harness on when the dog has bitten the female to the face, causing a substantial injury to her mouth and her cheek, requiring her to have to attend hospital for treatment.”
Any witnesses or anyone with information on the incident have been urged to get in touch with the police via 101 or Live Chat in reference to Log 3423- 17/05/22.