Matt Hancock has hinted that schools may not fully reopen until after September amid concerns from educators that it may be impossible to practise social distancing once classrooms are filled.
In England, primary schools have already been given the green light to reopen for some year six, year one and reception aged-children to return to education, although reports this morning say the government is about to scrap plans to reopen them to all ages before summer.
A number of councils have already refused to ask schools in their area to reopen, due to the concerns raised from unions that teachers and students wouldn’t be able to be kept safe from the virus that has killed more than 40,000 people in the country.
The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, is set to update the House of Commons later, but it is being widely reported that proposals to get all primary school pupils back to school before the start of the summer holidays will be scrapped.
According to the Department of Education, it was still the ‘ambition’ to get all primary school kids back into school before summer holidays, but it also wouldn’t deny reports that Mr Williamson accepts this plan might not be possible.
The health secretary has said that the ‘current working plan’ for education is to resume in September, but has hinted that even that might not be possible when the next academic year begins.
When asked at the Downing Street press conference if schools would be reopen fully at the start of the next academic year with social distancing in place, Mr Hancock said: “That is our current working plan – that secondary schools won’t open until September at the earliest.
“I very much hope that they can because the impact on children’s education is so significant.
“But what we have to do – not only in schools, but right across the board – is work out how we can get the other things that matter going.
“Like schools, like hospitality – especially outdoor hospitality, like retail. And get them going safely and carefully, in a way that doesn’t lead to the spread of the virus, and that is going to require ingenuity.”
It comes after schools were urged to reconsider their reopening when the R rate had risen beyond one in areas like the north west, meaning it was increasingly spreading across the community.
Mr Hancock also unveiled plans for pupils and teachers across England to receive coronavirus testing, with approval from parents and guardians.
They are aiming to have up to 100 schools tested across England by the end of the summer term, totalling to around 200 staff and pupils.
The Department of Health and Social Care recorded the lowest total daily death figure since March 23rd, before the lockdown began, on Saturday, with 77 people dying on the day.
Many people are still concerned that lockdown was eased too early, however Mr Hancock said that the R rate of transmission of COVID-19 remains below the crucial level of one in the country.
Greater Manchester town officially named one of the happiest places to live in UK
A Greater Manchester town has been named among the 20 happiest places to live in the UK, alongside a couple of other North West spots.
Altrincham was placed in the top 20 of Britain’s happiest places to live in an annual survey, coming in at number 17 in Rightmove’s survey.
St Ives, a seaside town in Cornwall, took the number one spot, while Galashiels in Scotland came in a respectable second.
Other North West areas in the top 20 were Northwich (16) and Macclesfield (18).
Rightmove’s Happy at Home Index asked more than 21,000 people their thoughts on where they live.
Each area is ranked on factors like whether people feel there is a sense of belonging, local amenities, whether there is a community spirit and the proximity to green spaces.
According to Rightmove, these are Britain’s happiest places to live in 2022 (including the average house price and average asking monthly rental price):
1) St Ives, South West – £523,731, £1,152
2) Galashiels, Scotland – £153,546, £530
3) Woodbridge, East of England – £481,978, £1,196
4) Hexham, North East – £262,265, £810
5) Perth, Scotland – £179,410, £812
6) Harrogate, Yorkshire and the Humber – £381,124, £1,327
7) Anglesey, Wales – £324,048, £766
8) Bury St Edmunds, East of England – £334,160, £1,368
9) Stirling, Scotland – £197,075, £990
10) Cirencester, South West, £382,065 – £1,331
11) Richmond-upon-Thames, London – £1,153,347, £3,931
12) Falmouth, South West – £373,752, £1,289
13) Monmouth, Wales – £331,844, £1,104
14) Leamington Spa, West Midlands – £383,553, £1,274
15) Worcester, West Midlands – £286,250, £1,059
16) Northwich, North West – £246,995, £942
17) Altrincham, North West – £615,246, £2,297
18) Macclesfield, North West – £292,078, £1,146
19) Newbury, South East – £380,842, £1,364
20) Llandudno, Wales – £260,245, £760
Northern to start using new technology to catch train fare dodgers
‘This technology will be invaluable for our gate line and revenue protection colleagues’
Northern has announced that they will be bringing in some brand new technology to catch train fare dodgers.
Britain’s second largest train operator is planning to install the system within station barriers at ‘known hotspots’, the BBC reports.
The technology will automatically detect whether a ticket is valid, and alert rail staff for any additional checks, or if the customer has the right railcard.
According to Northern, around 180 fare dodgers were caught in a single day when they trialled the system at Manchester Victoria in November.
Northern’s Customer and Commercial Director Mark Powles said: “This technology will be invaluable for our gate line and revenue protection colleagues whose job it is to ensure ticket checks are carried out quickly and efficiently.
“Unfortunately, we know that a small minority of customers try to exploit the automated nature of barrier checks to travel on tickets they know they’re not eligible to use.”
Powles added that the kit was ‘very easy’ to install, saying it could be: “deployed to known hotspots across the whole network to help tackle this fraudulent activity”.
The Department for Transport confirmed last month that anyone travelling on a train without a ticket can be fined £100 from January 23rd, rising from £20.
Man, 33, charged following attempted kidnapping of schoolgirl
A 33-year-old has been arrested and charged
Police have charged a man, following the release of CCTV footage featuring a car used in three attempted kidnappings around Salford.
A man driving the vehicle attempted to force a 15-year-old girl into the car at a bus stop in Monton on Monday, November 21st.
Detectives also believe the same man tried to abduct another girl earlier that same day, as well as a third teenager five days previous.
Officers have confirmed that Sean Anthony Gillings (06/09/1989) of no fixed abode has been charged, following an appeal to the public.
This appeal resulted in the arrest of 33-year-old Gillings, who was then questioned and charged on Tuesday November 29th.
He also remains on bail for the other two attempt kidnaps, while further investigations are ongoing.
Gillings was remanded in custody yesterday, Wednesday November 30th, to appear at Manchester Crown Square Court on Wednesday January 4th 2023.
Police previously confirmed that a 33-year-old man was arrested by officers on Monday November 28th, on suspicion of three counts of attempted kidnap.
According to Greater Manchester Police, the victims have been left ‘extremely shaken up’.
Officers identified the vehicle in the footage as a black Vauxhall Astra with a silver cover on the driver’s side wing mirror.
Detective Inspector Chris Horsfield, of GMP’s Salford CID, previously said: “Although we have made this arrest, we are still very much looking to speak to anyone who may have information or dashcam footage, which could help us to establish the circumstances.
“We understand that the local community will be concerned but we are doing all we can to solve this investigation.
“I’d urge anyone who knows anything at all to please get in touch as soon as possible. In particular we are interested in the movements of a Black Vauxhall Astra 08 plate with a silver driver’s wing mirror cover; the passenger side is black.”
Police believe the incidents happened at the following times:
- Liverpool Street, Salford, between Fitzwarren Street and Albion Way on November 16th, between 7:45-8:20pm
- Mossfield Road and Ackworth Road, Swinton, on November 21st, between 8-9am
- Rocky Lane, Monton Green and Monton High Street on November 21st, between 6-7pm