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‘Kids can be taught to socially distance,’ says Norfolk MP - Do you agree?

PUBLISHED: 10:36 15 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:10 15 May 2020

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said people should stay at their own homes  Picture: Denise Bradley

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said people should stay at their own homes Picture: Denise Bradley

A Norfolk MP has said that he is confident five-year-olds can be “taught” to socially distance in schools, despite teaching unions suggesting this is “impossible”.

Conservative Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis told BBC News that it was indeed possible to “create a safe environment” for pupils and staff when primary schools re-open on June 1.

He said: “A few weeks out of school makes a huge difference for young children and we need to get them back into education as soon as possible.

“I used to look up to teachers when I was in school, and this is a good opportunity for teachers to educate young children about good hygiene, washing hands and how to deal with a virus that unfortunately, will be part of our lives for many months to come.”

When pressed that teachers themselves are deeply concerned about the ability of reception-age children to refrain from touching each other when outside playing, Mr Lewis said he believed that they could.

School children practicing social distancing during lunchtime. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireSchool children practicing social distancing during lunchtime. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

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“And this is not only important because parents can then get back to work, but because even missing a few weeks school can be detrimental to children of that age”, he said.

Mr Lewis’s assurance comes as education union leaders are due to meet with the Chief Medical Officer for the first time today.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said younger children would be at the head of the queue to return to school, since “the first few years of a child’s education are so important” for developing social skills.

The government says some children could return to school as soon as June 1 after lockdown restrictions were eased. Picture: PAThe government says some children could return to school as soon as June 1 after lockdown restrictions were eased. Picture: PA

Students transitioning to secondary school and those approaching GCSEs and A-levels would also take priority.

Mr Williamson said the “controlled and careful” return would involve a range of protective measures, such as keeping class sizes small, observing strict hygiene measures and having breaks and mealtimes staggered to reduce crowding.

But head teachers have expressed doubt that young children can be relied upon to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Debbie Whiting, from North Denes Primary in Great Yarmouth, sent out a letter to parents which stresed that there was “no such thing” as social distancing in schools.

The letter read: “We can always make things safer, and reduce the risk slightly, but as soon as lots of chlidren return I can tell you the risk will be there.”


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