NEWS DIGEST 16.05.2020: UK teachers and ministers tussle over planned school re-openings in lockdown



This weekend begins with a digest from Google News. BBC News says that teachers and ministers in the UK have been asked to stop ‘squabbling’ over the Government’s planned partial re-opening of schools in early June for key year groups of pupils. As mentioned a Saturday news update published by the Corporation, Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has urged teachers’ unions and the government to set aside disagreements and differences and find a way to safely re-open schools. Many teachers have spoken out against ministers’ plans to restart classes, saying that social distancing for younger children would be impossible, and that children and their carers/parents are being put at risk of coronavirus infection by the government – Coronavirus: Saturday update as teachers and ministers told to ‘stop squabbling’ (BBC News)

Meanwhile, the BMA (British Medical Association) has spoken out in support of teachers in the school re-opening debacle, The Guardian reports. Leading doctors in the country have said that teachers are right to insist that testing is carried out before schools open up. The BMA wrote to the National Education Union (NEU) last week that the level of coronavirus infections is still too high. “We cannot risk a second spike or take actions which would increase the spread of this virus, particularly as we see sustained rates of infection across the UK,” the BMA council’s chair, Chaand Nagpaul, said in the letter to his NEU counterpart, Kevin Courtney. On the other side of the fence, the national government has urged teachers to ‘do their duty’ and cooperate with ministers – BMA backs teaching unions’ opposition to schools reopening (The Guardian)

children having their exam
Photo by Arthur Krijgsman on


The Guardian also details when schools in the UK will reopen as part of the governmental plans to restart learning for children, who have been largely learning from home with their parents and carers and attending online classes since the beginning of the lockdown in March. In England, ministers want all primary schools to exit lockdown on the 1st of June, bringing back reception, year one and year six classes, as well as nursery children in both attached and independent nurseries and daycare centres. The Department for Education wants secondary school pupils to have a month’s interval of ‘face-to-face time’ with their tutors before commencing exams in addition, the newspaper states – When will UK schools reopen – and how will they keep children safe? (The Guardian)

The Telegraph, which is politically aligned with the current Conservative administration, has taken a pro-government stance on the debate/dispute, saying that children must return to school otherwise their learning will suffer and that online lessons on conferencing software is no replacement for live learning in the classroom. The report expressed fears that children will be disrupted and negatively affected by the impact the lockdown has had on their education, as well as the negative impacts on their social lives and future economic conditions – Children must return to school or an entire generation will suffer (The Telegraph)

In other news, British prime minister Boris Johnson has ruled out bringing back austerity measures for the country as it gets its head around a massive £300 billion deficit caused by the pandemic, Daily Mirror reports. Suggestions have made for the bill to be tackled by ordering a pay freeze on National Health Service (NHS) workers or a return to belt-tightening of national finances that followed the credit crunch of 2008 – Boris Johnson ‘rules out austerity’ to pay back £300bn coronavirus pandemic bill (Mirror)

The Labour Party, the main opposition party in the UK parliament, has commended the prime minister’s plans to focus on anti-obesity measures after he himself suffered weight gain while recovering from coronavirus in intensive care last month. The prime minister now wants to lead a ‘war on fat’ and ‘invest in preventive and personalised solutions to ill health, helping people to live healthier and more active lives’. The PM may now give a go-ahead to plans to raise tax on sugary drinks and bans on pre-watershed advertising of less healthy foods like burgers – Labour welcomes PM’s ‘conversion’ on obesity after coronavirus scare (The Guardian)

Amidst the pandemic, the UK and European Union (EU) have been engaged in a heated dispute over the final outcome of Brexit at the negotiation tables, with observers unsure of whether there is a standoff or a stalemate in roundtable talks between London and Brussels, says the BBC. Talks on trade agreements and rules between the two parties have already hit the buffers, with both sides calling each other out on their ideologies, while discussions have made what could best be described as a snail’s pace in progress. The UK plans to exit the union by December 31st, 2020 and is in a special transitional period where EU directives and policies are applicable to the archipelago – Stand-off or stalemate: EU-UK Brexit trade talks in trouble (BBC News)



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