Schools won't open in September unless government drops social distancing rules, union leaders warn
Some receptionist, 1st, and 6th grade students have already returned to school - but union leaders have warned all students that they may not return as planned in September. (Justin Setterfield / Getty Images)
Union leaders have warned that schools will not reopen in September if government social distancing measures continue.
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On Wednesday, MPs were told that maintaining a social distance of two meters and limiting class size would require double the number of classrooms and teachers.
Union bosses urged Downing Street to publish a recovery plan in the event that schools do not reopen.
Last week, the government rejected plans to return all elementary school students before the summer vacation. Secretary of Education Gavin Williamson refused to promise that all elementary and secondary school students would return for the new school year in September.
There followed weeks of tensions between the government and the unions about reopening plans.
Some Tory MPs have accused unions of doing more to make the government look bad than bringing children back to school.
When Boris Johnson spoke about the two-meter rule on Tuesday, he said we had to "be careful", but indicated that it might be relaxed - and said, "Take care of this room."
On Wednesday, a number of heads of education unions and associations were interviewed on the subject in the Lower House Education Committee.
Dr. Mary Bousted, joint secretary general of the National Educational Union, told MPs: "If the government maintains its social distance rules, they cannot [reopen].
"So then we have to look at education and a plan to restore education that focuses on more than just school buildings."
Julie McCulloch, director of politics at the Association of School and College Leaders, also warned: "Mathematics just doesn't work."
She said: "If it is possible at all and is considered safe, we want all children to be back in school from September.
"But we are currently unable to do so under the government's guidelines on safeguards." The math just doesn't work.
"If you can only have up to 15 children in a class and bring all the children back, you need twice as many classrooms and twice as many teachers."
The potential relaxation of the two-meter rule of social distancing is associated with political difficulties for Boris Johnson. (PA video / PA images via Getty Images)
The possible relaxation of the two-meter rule is associated with political difficulties for Johnson.
The prime minister is under pressure from a number of conservative backers to loosen the rule to boost the economy and allow schools to reopen.
However, the Prime Minister's best scientific advisers - Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof. Chris Whitty - have been reported by the Sunday Times as "resignation guardians" regarding the possible relaxation of the rules.
Sir Patrick said of the two meter distance on Tuesday: "Two meters is safer than one meter, but it's not an absolute value, it's a relative and the closer you get, the riskier it is, so it's a risk assessment."
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