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Parents and teachers demand answers over ‘chaotic’ school shutdown: Amids covid-19

Boris Johnson has announced that schools across the UK will shut their doors from Friday and it is unclear which will stay open for the children of ‘key workers’ Parents and teachers demanded answers as chaos surrounded Friday’s school closures.

The children of key workers and those most in need will still be able to go in, the Government said – but it was not clear how this would work.

Most pupils will not return this school year in an escalation in the Government’s coronavirus response.

It came as the UK death toll climbed to 104 as another 32 people in England and one in Scotland died.

And it emerged a lockdown of London is planned as early as next week as the infections race ahead in the capital.

Multiple sources said they expected restrictions to be hugely tightened, with businesses closed and restrictions on travel.

A senior Government source signalled it could come within days, saying: “It’s not going to happen today or tomorrow.”

It took London’s City Hall by surprise, with a source saying: “We haven’t heard anything on this – this lack of information doesn’t sound like the best way to govern in a national emergency.”

A mobile mortuary was set up in the capital to cope with expected deaths from the disease.

But there was hope with news that a “game-changer” test to see if an individual has developed antibodies to tackle the virus is “coming down the track”.

Announcing the closure of schools, nurseries, childminding services and colleges from tomorrow, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “They will remain closed until further notice.

“This will be for all children except to those of key workers and children who are most vulnerable.”

From Monday all schools will be expected to open but only the children of key workers and those classed as vulnerable will be allowed to attend.

Over the next two weeks headteachers will work out the best way to run a skeleton operation, with some teachers and children being asked to go to a different school than usual.

But the head of the NUT union said the announcement left “more questions than answers”.

The move will radically change life for almost nine million children, millions of parents and more than 500,000 teachers across the UK.

The Prime Minister said exams will be cancelled but the government would ensure pupils get the qualifications they need. However, he did not say how or what form that would take.

Thousands of students will have university or college offers dependent on their A-level results.

Clare Marchant, boss of universities admissions body UCAS said plans had already been put in place for this scenario.

But it remained unclear how the new system would work with some teachers worrying that relying on predicted grades would disadvantage worse-off families.

GMB chief Rehana Azam said: “More detail is urgently needed.”

Scottish leaders said there is no guarantee schools there would reopen before the summer. Schools in Wales will be re-purposed to help “people in need”.

Elsewhere:

  • Prince Harry and wife Meghan want to help people cope with the mental stress by using their soon-to-be-rebranded @sussexroyal Instagram account to share resources.
  • Prince William supported a national appeal to raise funds for those in need through the National Emergencies Trust. He said: “It will ensure the support reaches those across the UK who need it most as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
  • A Navy hospital ship that supported operations to curb the Ebola outbreak could be used to treat coronavirus patients and ease pressure on packed NHS wards. Helicopters and other aircraft could be made available, with some 20,000 troops on standby. Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, Wilts, are working on fighting the spread of coronavirus.

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