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England drops plan for primary schools to reopen before summer as COVID-19 lingers

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Schools in England have been closed for several months
Schools in England have been closed for several months   -   Copyright  DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP or licensors
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Plans for children in England to return to primary school before September have been dropped, the UK government announced on Tuesday as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic.

Children aged between five and 11 were meant to go back to school for four weeks before the summer holidays under the original plan.

The plan to re-open schools in England also divided opinion, with some parents weary of sending their children back too soon as Britain has the second-worst global death toll from COVID-19.

Meanwhile, schools in European countries such as France, Germany and Italy reopened last month.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the House of Commons on Tuesday that the government is working on the next steps so that those schools that can accept more children while respecting the medical advice for social distancing. He also said exams will take place next year.

Selected age groups returned to school at the beginning of June, but not all schools reopened as they decided it was not safe.

Williamson said safety is his top priority and there will be a test and trace approach to schools.

But the new primary school plan has been met with criticism.

Robert Halfon, a Conservative MP who chairs the Commons education select committee, said the UK could be damaging children's life chances.

"We're a strange country in which we turn a blind eye to mass demonstrations all over in every city, we campaign for pubs and cafes to open, and yet we say to open schools before September is too risky.

"We are potentially damaging children's life chances. People worry about the pandemic but in the future there might be an epidemic of educational poverty."