Last-minute guidance hardly builds confidence but at least schools now have a plan B

Editorial: The government’s back-up plan for outbreaks was late, but what matters above all else is getting pupils back and learning

Sunday 30 August 2020 08:53
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Boris Johnson's government issued some more guidance for schools late on Friday night
Boris Johnson's government issued some more guidance for schools late on Friday night

It hardly inspires confidence that the government’s guidance to schools in England on how to respond to outbreaks of coronavirus was published late on the Friday before the new term. Nor did it help that a crucial paragraph, about requiring all pupils in a “bubble” to self-isolate if any tested positive, was deleted after publication without explanation.

However, the important thing is that all those involved agree that the priority is to get pupils back to school at the start of term, and are working hard to make it happen. The main discordant note comes not from the teachers’ unions, or from parents, but from Matt Hancock, the health secretary, who has chosen this moment to give an interview to The Times in which he warns of the possibility of “very extensive local lockdowns” or “further national action” in the case of a second wave of coronavirus.

Of course, the government is right to be prepared for the worst – or for the reasonable worst-case scenario, as it tends to be described now – and to be open about it. But, given the problem throughout this crisis of mixed messages from ministers, it would have made more sense to focus this weekend on the urgent practical questions of schools reopening.

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