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Boris Johnson insists schools are ‘Covid secure’ in visit to Upminster

PUBLISHED: 12:27 10 August 2020 | UPDATED: 12:44 13 August 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes part in archery during a visit to the Premier Education Summer Camp at Sacred Heart of Mary Girl's School, Upminster. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes part in archery during a visit to the Premier Education Summer Camp at Sacred Heart of Mary Girl's School, Upminster. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA Wire

The prime minister has visited two Upminster schools to see the new coronavirus measures put in place.

Head teacher Bernadette Matthews shows prime minister Boris Johnson the new measures being implemented at St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Upminster. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA WireHead teacher Bernadette Matthews shows prime minister Boris Johnson the new measures being implemented at St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Upminster. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA Wire

Boris Johnson was given a tour of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School by headteacher Bernadette Matthews to see how the school is preparing to welcome pupils back to class next month.

He then went to Sacred Heart of Mary Girls’ School, which is hosting a summer camp, where he watched youngsters having a Covid-safe outdoor archery lesson before shooting a few arrows himself.

Speaking during this morning’s trip (Monday, August 10), he said: “It’s not right that kids should spend more time out of school, it’s much much better for their health and mental wellbeing, obviously their educational prospects, if everybody comes back to school full-time in September.

“It’s our moral duty as a country to make sure that happens.

Prime minister Boris Johnson holds his arms out like an aeroplane, demonstrating the two metre distancing rule, during his visit to St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Upminster. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA WirePrime minister Boris Johnson holds his arms out like an aeroplane, demonstrating the two metre distancing rule, during his visit to St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Upminster. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA Wire

“It’s very important that everybody works together to ensure that our schools are safe and they are Covid secure. I have been very impressed by the work that the teachers have done, working with the unions, to make sure that all schools are safe to go back to in September.

“A lot of work being done over making sure that there’s social distancing, bubbling, staggered start times, all that kind of thing.”

Mr Johnson added that the government is on track to get all schools back in September and “that’s the right thing for everybody.”

He said he understood the anxiety felt by pupils waiting for results after exams were cancelled and said he was “very keen” to get back to normal assessments in the coming school year.

Head teacher Bernadette Matthews shows Prime Minister Boris Johnson a sign giving instructions on holding out your arms like an aeroplane, demonstrating the two metre distancing rule, during his visit to St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Upminster,  to see work to make schools safe for return in September. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA WireHead teacher Bernadette Matthews shows Prime Minister Boris Johnson a sign giving instructions on holding out your arms like an aeroplane, demonstrating the two metre distancing rule, during his visit to St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Upminster, to see work to make schools safe for return in September. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA Wire

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“I’m very, very keen that exams should go ahead as normal. Exams are a vital part of our education and I thank all the teachers for all the preparations they are making,” he said.

“Clearly, because of what has happened this year, there is some anxiety about what grades pupils are going to get, and everybody understands the system that the teachers are setting the grades, then there’s a standardisation system.

“We will do our best to ensure that the hard work of pupils is properly reflected.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson uses a wipe to clean an arrow as he takes part in archery during a visit to the Premier Education Summer Camp at Sacred Heart of Mary Girl's School. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA WirePrime Minister Boris Johnson uses a wipe to clean an arrow as he takes part in archery during a visit to the Premier Education Summer Camp at Sacred Heart of Mary Girl's School. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA Wire

The prime minister said he hoped schools would not be forced to close as a result of local action, adding: “I very much hope that doesn’t happen for any pupils but clearly what we are doing - the way we are trying to manage the Covid pandemic - is to have local measures in place and local test and trace to introduce restrictions where that’s necessary.

“But, as we have all said, the last thing we want to do is to close schools.

“We think that education is the priority for the country and that is simple social justice.”

ornchurch and Upminster MP Julia Lopez joined the prime minister on his visit. She said: “It was brilliant to showcase to the PM the hard work of the local school community in preparing for the full return of children after such a difficult year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson checks the target board as he takes part in archery during a visit to the Premier Education Summer Camp at Sacred Heart of Mary Girl's School, Upminster. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA WirePrime Minister Boris Johnson checks the target board as he takes part in archery during a visit to the Premier Education Summer Camp at Sacred Heart of Mary Girl's School, Upminster. Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA Wire

“The government is determined to reopen all schools next month and it was reassuring to see the efforts of teachers over the summer to make that happen. The importance of school to a child’s education, mental wellbeing and physical health goes without saying, and I am glad to see the PM’s personal commitment to getting everyone back in the classroom.

“On top of the recent funding uplifts for our schools by the education secretary and investment in buildings and facilities via Condition Improvement Funding, I hope and trust that parents, teachers and children will welcome the commitment to reopening schools for students of all ages.”

At Sacred Heart Girls’ School, St Mary’s Lane, where Mr Johnson met incoming headteacher Vivienne Qurrey, he saw the Premier Education summer camp that is based on-site. He took part in an archery lesson and chatted to children about the summer scheme.

He later tweeted: “It’s vital that we get children back to school, restore some normality to their lives and ensure they don’t miss out on their education because of coronavirus.”


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