CAROLINE Lucas has warned that opening primary schools too soon would put lives in jeopardy.

The Government is playing down speculation that schools shut amid the coronavirus pandemic could reopen as early as June 1.

The Brighton Pavilion Green MP and Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle, MP for Kemptown, cautioned against any move to let children return in the coming weeks, saying “running headlong” into it could prove disastrous.

They politicians spoke as part of a Zoom online video conference on Monday hosted by the National Education Union, in which experts fielded questions from parents and teachers in the city.

The Argus:

Among the panellists was teacher Anna Watson, who works at a nursery school in Brighton. She fears it would be impossible to implement social distancing in schools, saying: “Children gravitate towards each other. We can’t keep them apart.”

She said it was impractical even with the handful of key workers’ children currently at her nursery, adding: “The children don’t understand it. It’s impossible for them to adhere to it.”

Ms Lucas said the Government has much to do before schools can reopen safely. She stressed the importance of bringing the “incredibly slow” testing and contact tracing up to speed first.

She said: “I completely understand there is a very high price to be paid for keeping our schools closed and I’m mindful of what that means in terms of heightening inequalities. The bottom line is we have to keep people safe.”

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Mr Russell-Moyle floated the idea of sending children back to school as late as September. He said: “When you don’t know things for sure the sensible way is to follow a precautionary principle. And that means you err on the side of caution rather than running full steam ahead.”

He raised concerns about private schools with ample resources gaining a “huge advantage” over state-school children and said there needs to be a “level playing field”.

The panellists also raised concerns about children with special educational needs and disabilities and others struggling to learn at home.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to prioritise sending primary children back to school but the Government maintains it has not set a date for their return.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Schools will remain closed, except for children of critical workers and vulnerable children, until the scientific advice indicates it is the right time to reopen and the five tests set out by Government to beat this virus have been met. We have to think about what we do in the meantime to make sure children do not lag behind.”

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