Devon deputy leader said schools opening delay will allow ‘more certainty’ for parents and teachers

Devon County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for schools, Cllr James McInnes

Devon County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for schools, Cllr James McInnes - Credit: Devon County Council

Devon’s education boss said the delay in the full reopening of schools was ‘inevitable’ but that it does bring some certainty for parents and school staff. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that schools in England will not be able to reopen to all pupils after the February half-term, but could do so from Monday, March 8. 

He said that a final decision would depend on meeting vaccination targets and schools would get two weeks’ notice ahead of any changes to the current restrictions. 

Devon County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for schools, Cllr James McInnes, said that the delay was inevitable and it had become clear that a return to school immediately after half-term wasn’t going to happen with the spread of the more infectious strains of coronavirus. 

Cllr McInnes said: “I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement because it brings some certainty for parents and school staff following his earlier commitment to give two weeks’ clear notice about re-opening. 

“I think it was inevitable that a return to school immediately after half-term wasn’t going to happen with the spread of the more infectious strains of coronavirus. 

“We’ve now got a few weeks’ extra grace for this current lockdown to take effect and for the vaccination programme to ramp up. 

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“In the meantime, I would repeat my sincere thanks to heads, teachers and school staff for the sterling efforts they are making to provide some continuity of learning and, hopefully for parents, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. 

“I would also repeat my call for school staff to be near the top of the queue for vaccinations once those in the highest priority groups have received their jabs.” 

Mr Johnson told the House of Commons he hoped other lockdown restrictions could begin to be gradually eased at some point after schools reopen, but having pupils returning to class would be the “first sign of normality”. 

By February 22, he said the government would have more information on whether vaccines block transmission and how the vaccine will reduce hospitalisations and deaths, which would allow them to plan for the ‘gradual and phased’ lifting of the lockdown in England.