Parents welcome school return on March 8 as lockdown roadmap revealed

Parents have welcomed the news that children will be returning to schools in less than a fortnight.

A roadmap out of the current national Covid lockdown was revealed by the prime minister yesterday.

Boris Johnson told MPs of his four step exit plan before addressing the nation on TV last night and hopes to have the country fully re-opened by the end of June.

The first step will see all schools reopen on Monday, March 8. After-school sports and activities will also be allowed to resume.

But there will be mass testing in secondary schools. Parents will be expected to carry out the testing at home, after three tests in school.

Face masks must also be worn in some secondary classrooms.

The move was backed by parents commenting on the Adver’s Facebook page.

Andrea Cable said: “My Year 11 teenager is on the countdown to GCSE and has found that virtual teaching doesn’t match the real thing.

“Maybe a staggered approach concentrating on those who are now running out of time to make up the shortfalls in their education.”

Jenny Reid added: “I have an eight and three-year-old. My eight-year-old, like so many children, has been amazing.

“Adapting and coping with the huge changes this past year has meant for all our children, but she desperately misses interaction with her friends, social contact, her normal fun activities of her old everyday life.

“I’m very happy for her and us that going back to school will mean she can start having these much needed social interactions again.”

And Lucy Jane Longhurst-Milham led the calls to vaccinate school workers as a priority to make the process safer.

She said: “Get all school workers the vaccination, bring in weekly testing and get the kids back in school.”

Julie Greenwood added: “Boris needs to give school staff priority on the vaccine. Otherwise we are still at risk.”

Others weren’t so keen on the idea of sending children back to school so soon.

Steph Owen said: “He should wait until Easter so there isn’t such a high risk of them having to close again.”

And Debbie Mills added: “I am a one-to-one TA and has close contact with students, I haven’t had the injection yet so really worried about returning.”

Many Swindon headteachers told the Adver they were waiting to see the detail from the Department of Education before commenting on Mr Johnson’s plans.

But Commonweal School headteacher Bob Linnegar said: “We’re looking forward to seeing all our kids back in school again, the sooner the better.”

The first step of Mr Johnson’s exit plan will also allow people to have socially distanced one-to-one meetings with others outdoors in a public space. Care home residents will be allowed one visitor.

On March 29 the rule of six will return, meaning half a dozen people or two households can meet outdoors.

The second step, five weeks after the first on April 12, will mean non-essential shops, personal care businesses and outdoor hospitality can reopen.

In step three, no earlier than May 17, the government plans to further ease limits on social contact.

Outdoors, the rule of six and two household requirement will be lifted, but gatherings of more than 30 people in parks and gardens will remain illegal.

Indoor hospitality is set to open up at this point, where the rule of six or two household rule will apply, alongside entertainment venues such as cinemas.

The last step will happen no earlier than June 21 when it is hoped all limits on social contact will be removed along with reopening the final closed sectors of the economy, such as nightclubs. Restrictions on large events could also be eased.

Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for adults and health Brian Ford said it’s time for the town to rally round the measures.

He said: “I’m pleased we now have a clear path out of lockdown so we can start to look forward to resuming our normal way of life.

“However, there is still a long road ahead of us and the gradual easing of restrictions, being guided by the science and the data, is the only way we are going to ensure we contain the virus.

“In Swindon we have done fantastically well once again to bring our Covid-19 infection rate right back down and we must all continue to play our part to ensure we keep a firm grip on the virus.

“We cannot relax for a moment and we must all keep doing the basics of Hands, Face, Space and Ventilate to keep our ourselves and our loved ones safe.

“If we do that, we will ensure the light we have at the end of the tunnel continues to grow brighter in the weeks and months ahead.”

But Business West, which represents companies across the region, has labelled the roadmap “disappointing”.

He said: “Many of our companies will have been disappointed by this roadmap.

“It certainly does not give many of them real hope of surviving the next few months – particularly in the hospitality sector where so many restaurants and nightclubs will not be open until June.

“This means that support for hospitality businesses in particular will be so important for the Chancellor when he presents his budget next Wednesday.

“We must now have a meaningful extension to the furlough scheme, perhaps with some training and re-training commitments included.

“I have to say that I am hopeful this support will be forthcoming from the Treasury as the Prime Minister promised business: “We will not pull the rug out”.

“That gives struggling companies some hope that they can hang on with further furlough support. We also hope that Rishi Sunak can also extend the business rates holiday for companies.

“For business, the return to school of all children on March 8 will be a huge boost for their employees who have had the difficult burden of homeschooling.

“What we saw today was a cautious prime minister who was intent on not falling into the trap of overpromising and not delivering.”

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