PM faces Tory backlash over plan to axe school 'bubbles' AFTER summer

PM faces Tory backlash over plan to axe school 'bubbles' AFTER summer

July 2, 2021

‘What are we waiting for?’ Boris Johnson faces growing Tory backlash over scrapping school ‘bubbles’ after the summer holidays as MPs warn ‘almost everyone in the Conservative Party wants action on this NOW’

Boris Johnson is facing increasing pressure from Tory MPs and parents today to take action on school bubbles before the summer holidays.

The Prime Minister came under fire after claiming that schools needed the ‘fire break’ of the summer holidays before they implement new rules to replace the current bubble system.

Critics say the system, which sees large numbers of children forced to stay at home if one person tests positive for Covid has been responsible for tens of thousands of children missing school.

There are also fears over the economic damage of having large numbers of parents having to take time off work to care for them. 

Senior Tories told the Telegraph today that the PM’s remarks had fallen ‘on stony ground’  

The former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson joined the clamour for a swifter release from the bubbles today. 

Writing in the Telegraph the new peer said there needed to be a plan to reintroduce ‘play; this summer, adding: ‘Where is the respite for parents this summer after the pressure-cooker of multiple lockdowns, especially for those without outdoor space at home? 

‘Why do the bubble rules still in force mean many holiday camps and play schemes are being forced to keep their doors shut, when the need for places and spaces for play is more acute than ever? 

The Prime Minister came under fire after claiming that schools needed the ‘fire break’ of the summer holidays before they implement new rules to replace the current bubble system.

The former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson joined the clamour for a swifter release from the bubbles today.

‘Where is the national summer drive for play to give back to the generation who were statistically at least risk, but had to sacrifice most?’

A reminder of the damaging effect on education came as figures showed the average pupil lost at least a week’s worth of learning in autumn term last year, despite schools being open.

Mr Johnson is under pressure after it was revealed that 375,000 children had been sent home because a member of their ‘bubble’ had tested positive for Covid.

They have to isolate for ten days if another pupil in their group gets the virus. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has suggested that school bubbles will end when classes return after the summer holidays in September.

He has also indicated that the changes could happen when the next stage of easing restrictions takes place on July 19.

But this is the date that many schools are due to break up for summer, making it a meaningless promise in practice.

Tim Loughton, a Tory MP and former children’s minister, told the Telegraph: ‘Common sense has been thrown out the window, they just need to get rid of all these bubbles asap.

‘The whole Department for Education operation has lacked a sense of urgency and the children have been the collateral damage.’

Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith is among 48 MPs to have signed a letter to the Prime Minister warning that the current policy is ‘disproportionate’ and ‘unsustainable’.

They said it was essential that schools ‘go back to normal’ when lockdown is lifted, even if it is ‘just for the last few days of term’.

‘This will send an important signal ahead of the autumn that the route to freedom is a ”one-way road”,’ the letter said.

It added that pupils have suffered ‘unnecessary and significant disruptions’ in order to keep the rest of the country safe.

‘They have lost physical fitness, suffered mental health damage, and experienced catastrophic learning loss,’ it said.

Other signatories include former cabinet minister Esther McVey and Commons education committee chairman Robert Halfon.

Department for Education analysis of autumn term 2020 showed that the average pupil lost five days for Covid-related reasons, equating to a total of 33million days, despite school being open.

ASCL, the secondary heads’ union, wrote to the Prime Minister hitting back at claims schools were sending too many children home.

The letter said: ‘This feels like a cynical attempt to shift the blame for your Government’s failure to address the escalating educational disruption of recent weeks.’

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