Published: 10:10, 29 December 2020
| Updated: 11:15, 29 December 2020
Schools should not be required to open in the new year until vaccines are made available for teachers, says a Kent MP.
North Thanet's Sir Roger Gale is urging the government not to allow classes to go ahead unless coronavirus jabs are given to staff.
The Tory, whose constituency includes Herne Bay and Margate, believes that pressing ahead with the planned reopening of schools without the inoculations could put the lives of teachers and parents at risk.
He said: "Teachers and parents need a clear and definitive statement that schools will not be required to reopen in January until effective vaccination is made available to teaching staff.
"Education is important but so are the lives and wellbeing of teachers and key working parents need time to plan for the care of their children."
This comes amid reports in The Times of divisions in the Cabinet around the issue of whether to reopen schools as planned next month.
During a meeting yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove are understood to have been among those calling for next term to be delayed.
But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson reportedly wants to “push ahead” with the current plan which involves mass testing of pupils.
Two teaching unions have also warned that allowing children to return will put them at risk of catching the mutant strains of Covid-19.
According to The Telegraph, members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have told ministers schools reopening could cause infections to spiral – even if another national lockdown was introduced.
Earlier this month, the government said exam-year youngsters would return to lessons after the Christmas break, but that the majority of youngsters would start the term online to allow headteachers to roll out mass testing schemes.
Mr Gove said yesterday: "Our plan is that primary schools will go back but with secondary schools it will be the case that next week only children in Year 11 and Year 13.
"Those who are doing their GCSEs, their BTECs, their A-levels – those will go back."
"We always keep things under review but teachers and head teachers have been working incredibly hard over the Christmas period in order to prepare for a new testing regime.
"They've been preparing very hard over the course of the holidays and I just think we should all be very grateful that teachers – at the end of what has been a very difficult and challenging year – have been preparing for this."
Mr Gove also said exams would "absolutely" still be going ahead later in 2021.