Prime Minister’s message to North Staffordshire families: ‘Pupils will be better off back in school’


Prime Minister Boris Johnson today urged parents across North Staffordshire to have faith in sending their children back to school.

During a visit to Stoke-on-Trent, he said ‘the risk now is keeping kids out of school any longer rather than getting them back’.

His visit to St Mary’s CE Primary, in Tunstall, was part of a Government campaign to reassure the public ahead of schools fully reopening from Monday next week.

A recent YouGov survey found that, although 63 per cent of people nationally support the move, 27 per cent oppose bringing all pupils back so soon.

Mr Johnson met staff and children to find out how they’ve coped during lockdown and the preparations being made for the mass return.

He told StokeonTrentLive: “Just being here at St Mary’s Primary School in Stoke-on-Trent really confirms that we are right to come back altogether on March 8.

“The enthusiasm here from the teachers and also from the pupils to get back is palpable. They really want to do it. They are ready.”

Describing schools as ‘safe environments’, he said he worried about the toll on young people’s mental health from spending so much time out of the classroom and away from friends.

But the Prime Minister couldn’t give any guarantees that pupils won’t face further disruption to their education.



The Prime Minister joined a Year 4 lesson outside the school’s reading bus

He was asked about the issue of some bubbles and whole year groups having to repeatedly self-isolate last term before the country went into the third lockdown.

A snapshot from December 10 revealed 295 pupils in the Potteries were off school after either testing positive for Covid-19 or being suspected of having it.

And between 2,910 and 3,575 of the city’s schoolchildren – up to 11.9 per cent – were estimated to be self-isolating after coming into contact with someone who had the virus.

In Staffordshire, up to 7,569 pupils were self-isolating as a precaution – with 669 suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19 that week.

Since January, only pupils classed as vulnerable or from key worker families have been attending lessons on site, with the rest learning remotely at home.

Mr Johnson said the rollout of twice-weekly testing of secondary pupils for coronavirus would be a game-changer. The Government is investing £50 million in the scheme.



Prime Minister Boris Johnson joins a reception class painting lesson during a visit to St Mary's CE Primary School in Tunstall
Prime Minister Boris Johnson joins a reception class painting lesson during a visit to St Mary’s CE Primary School in Tunstall

“Lateral flow tests are extremely valuable in helping to isolate asymptomatic positive cases,” he added.

But he couldn’t explain why the Government has only made the tests optional. He urged all eligible pupils to take up the offer.

After an initial three Covid tests in school, students from Year 7 upwards will be expected to be tested twice a week at home under the plans. Families will be responsible for sending the results to NHS Test and Trace and their school.



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During his visit to St Mary’s, he also got to try his hand at painting, joined a maths lesson, boarded the school’s reading bus and explored its outdoor area.

He said: “What a fantastic school – just look at the kids. Think of what they could achieve in their lives.

“They are full of enthusiasm. It’s just wonderful to see them.”

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