Minister refuses to rule out penalising heads if they keep schools shut, as academies warn poor kids will lose out


A MINISTER has refused to rule out penalising heads if they keep schools shut as fears grow for students missing out on lessons.

Culture Secretary Olivder Dowden today refused to rule out taking action against those who refused to get kids back in school.

The minister refused to rule out taking action against schools who didn’t open

His warning came on the same day academies warned poor kids will lose out if they don’t reopen.

Appearing on Sky News this morning, Mr Dowden refused four times to answer if English councils will be penalised for keeping schools shut against government advice.

The first time he said: “I hope we can do this in a constructive way.”

Pushed on if they could be penalised, he replied: “We are working with them to try and ensure that that doesn’t happen, to address those concerns.

“I do understand that teachers will of course have concerns about this.

“We’re working through those concerns, we’re working with the trade unions and I really hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Asked a third time the senior minister once again refused to answer.

He said: “I don’t want to speculate on that at this stage. We’re still trying to work with them.

“It’s in the children interests to get them back to school and I hope we can address the concerns they have.

“Of course there are legitimate concerns and we’re looking to address those.”

The refusal to rule out action comes as almost two dozen academy chains reaching a third of a million children backed plans to reopen schools.

Leaders of the trusts from all over Britain warned The Times that the impact of schools remaining closed would be a disaster for the nation’s poorest students.

In a letter signed by 22 trusts, they said: “Since the lockdown, schools have exercised outstanding civic leadership. We have remained open for key workers’ children; kept vulnerable children safe; delivered food parcels; taught online lessons; and kept in contact with pupils.

“But for any child, prolonged absence from school is concerning. For disadvantaged pupils, it is calamitous.

“If we do not take action and reopen schools soon, the impact of lost learning could be irreparable.”

Those signing the letter include chief executives of Star Academies, Academies Enterprise Trust, David Ross Education Trust, Ormiston Academies Trust, Outwood Grange Academies Trust and Cabot Learning Federation.

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