WARRINGTON North MP Charlotte Nichols quizzed Prime Minister Boris Johnson today on the Government’s response to special schools in light of the lockdown announced on Monday.
After noting that the Prime Minister had failed to mention special schools in his speech, Ms Nichols asked Mr Johnson to provide clear advice on how to open safely and a commitment to priority access to vaccinations.
She said: “The least special schools deserve is clear advice from the Government on how to stay open safely and a commitment to priority access for vaccination in order to keep SEN students safe.
Public Health England has found that the death rate from COVID-19 for those with learning disabilities is over six times higher than the general population, making the need for vaccination priority all the more important, not least because preventative measures such as social distancing may be impossible in such a setting.
“The Prime Minister’s thanks to SEN schools will simply ring hollow when he refuses to take concerns about vaccinating their pupils and staff seriously, dismissing it as this or that group.”
Meanwhile Mr Johnson said England’s schools would be the “very first” things to reopen after lockdown, although it may not happen before the end of next month.
He admitted he would have to be “very cautious” about reopening classrooms despite saying he hopes they’ll be back from February 22.
MPs are set to pass a law tonight which will allow the lockdown to continue until as late as March 31.
Mr Johnson said the third national lockdown would only be taken apart “brick by brick”, with a slow return to the tier system, not all at once.
He said schools would be “the very first thing” to reopen, adding “That moment may come after the February half term – although we should remain extremely cautious about the timetable ahead.”
He defended his “dithering and U-turn” on closing schools – which he did only after primaries reopened for one day, and two weeks after SAGE warned the R number could not be brought below 1 with them open.
“We’ve been doing everything in our power to keep them open,” he said.
“Children’s education is too vital and their futures too precious to be disrupted until every other option has been closed off.”