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Opening schools is a national priority, government says

JUST IN.

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Schools Minister, Nick Gibb told the commons that schools in England will be reopen ‘as soon as possible’. 

Responding to an urgent question brought by Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green, Mr Gibb said the government would ‘prioritise the reopening of schools as we begin the process of lifting lockdown restrictions’.

Ms Green went onto say that the government had ‘failed  to give parents, children and staff the credible plan they deserve’.

Adding: “We simply don’t know what the government’s plan is for school reopening – other than what we read in the newspapers,”

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“In recent days, we’ve had reports that the prime minister wants pupils back before Easter, the health secretary saying he wants pupils back after Easter, Public Health England saying overnight the primary schools are already safe to reopen – so which is it?

“What is the plan for full reopening? The schools minister mentioned some metrics but was vague about the required performance against them – can he give us some more clarity?”

Mr Gibb said it was the government’s ‘strong desire to reopen all schools, colleges and universities as soon as possible’.

“We are acutely aware of the damage to children’s education and development – particularly to the most disadvantaged pupils by being away from school and of the increased burdens placed on parents.

He added that the ‘government has been clear that education is a national priority’ throughout the pandemic.

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“We had worked hard to keep all schools, colleges and universities fully open but scientific advice we received in January meant we had no choice but to close schools and colleges to all but vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.

“And to restrict in-person teaching in university to those studying to be future critical workers.” He said. 

He added that there will be an announcement in the next few days as remote learning is no substitute for face-to-face learning. 

“We want to give two weeks’ notice so parents can make arrangement for the care of their children and we will be making announcements in the next few days.” He said.

Chairman of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, told Mr Gibb that parents and children were suffering.

“We need to get our schools open again sooner rather than later,” he said.

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Blackpool Pleasure Beach officially confirms date for reopening

Not long to go now

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Blackpool Pleasure Beach

The Blackpool Pleasure Beach owners have confirmed the date on which the theme park will reopen.

Posting a video on social media of staff testing the rides, the caption stated that the venue is prepping for customers’ return on April 12th. 

A statement on social media said: “In line with Government guidelines, we plan to re-open COVID secure and ‘Good To Go’ on Monday 12th April.

“We look forward to welcoming you back to share in our 125th year.”

Under current government plans to ease restrictions, theme parks along with zoos will be opening in Stage Two, which will happen on April 12th at the earliest.

It comes after the council announced that Blackpool Illuminations will be extended in 2021, with an additional two months of the spectacle. 

You can see more info on the opening here, along with all the Covid-19 policies you can expect on your visits such as bookings made in advance and eTickets. 

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One of UK’s largest care home groups says it won’t hire anyone who isn’t vaccinated

New staff must have received the Covid vaccine

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Care UK, one of the UK’s largest care home companies, has put a ‘no jab, no job’ system in place.

It comes after Care UK, which runs 120 homes, has seen more than two-thirds of its staff vaccinated.

A spokesperson said: “Everyone applying for a role which requires them to go into a home will be expected to have been vaccinated before they start work.” 

Barchester, which operates 220 private care homes, said it would be insisting on staff having vaccines, warning that ‘if they refuse… on non-medical grounds [they] will, by reason of their own decision, make themselves unavailable for work’.

Employment lawyers have warned that such a move could result in legal challenges for unfair dismissal. However, Barchester stressed it might be possible to find such people work in roles away from frontline care.

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Mike Cain, an associate at Leigh Day, said employment tribunals would weigh the care home’s clinical safety obligations to residents against the civil liberties of any employee whose refusal to have the vaccine might not be an impediment to safe working.

Barchester explains they expect all staff to have the vaccine by April 23rd, excluding those who have medical – including pregnancy – grounds for exemption.

So far 82% of its staff have received a first dose. A spokesperson said: “We are very aware of concerns around possible discrimination which is in no way our intention.

“We are doing everything possible to ensure fairness while also delivering on our duty to protect our residents, patients and staff.”

Keir Starmer/Flickr

Bupa has said it is considering a policy for staff in hospitals, care homes and dental practices.

The largest not-for-profit home chain, MHA, said it is ‘being explicit with new staff that we want all of our frontline colleagues to take up the vaccine’ but it will not require new starters to prove it. 

Unison, which represents care workers, warned that a ‘hardline approach’ risked hindering take-up.

Senior national care officer, Gavin Edwards, said: “Hesitant staff need encouraging and persuading.

“Intimidation and threats won’t deliver the results necessary for life to return to normal.”

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17-year-old boy arrested after the George Floyd mural was defaced with racist graffiti

It’s the third time it’s been defaced

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A 17-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage to the George Floyd mural in the Northern Quarter.

The tribute to George Floyd in Stevenson Square was painted by artist Akse P19 following the killing of Mr Floyd in May 2020. 

The artwork was vandalised with a racist word on Friday morning for the third time since the painting was completed. 

The suspect was seen doing the act on CCTV and police are now holding him on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage. 

It comes just a matter of weeks after the last vandalising of the artwork.

Mr Floyd was killed by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. 

His face became an icon of the resurgence of the Black Live Matter campaign across the globe. 

Speaking on the last incident of defacing, Councillor Jon-Connor Lyons said: “Racism has no place in Manchester, we will not tolerate it and the Council will repair the memorial working with the artist.

“We’ll be working to review CCTV footage and any leads will be followed to find the culprit.

“Manchester is an inclusive, welcoming city with people from across the globe [and] this does not represent Manchester or Mancunians.

“Whoever did this has achieved nothing.”

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