A campaign aimed at persuading parents in England it will be safe for children to return to the classroom in September is being launched by the government.
Under the #backtoschoolsafely slogan, it will highlight the various measures being implicated to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Boris Johnson said there was a “moral duty” to get pupils back to school.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it is the PM’s “moral responsibility” to ensure that schools reopen.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Sir Keir said he expects children to be back in the classroom in September “no ifs, no buts, no equivocation”.
“It is the prime minister’s responsibility to guarantee children get the education they need and the benefit of being back with their teachers and classmates,” Sir Keir added.
“My offer to help the government reopen schools still stands, but responsibility for making it happen lies squarely at the door of Number 10.”
Last week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson apologised to pupils who have missed out on several months of classes.
The campaign, which will involve newspaper, digital, radio and billboard adverts, will strive to emphasise the importance of organised learning to children’s development.
Some families remain concerned about the potential risks to children when they start the new school year. Many will be starting at a new school altogether.
The government initiative will point to guidance, endorsed by Public Health England, that ensures schools are Covid-secure.
This guidance includes the introduction of staggered break times, increased hygiene and hand-washing, plus keeping pupils in consistent groups.
At the same time, staff and pupils are being encouraged to walk or cycle to school whenever possible.
The majority of pupils have been away from the classroom since March. Getting schools up and running in September is being seen as a key test for Mr Williamson, already under pressure after thousands of students had their A-levels downgraded.
The saga over the exams process continued on Saturday night, after exams regulator Ofqual suspended its criteria for students wishing to appeal against A-level results – just hours after the guidance was published.
Families ‘more confident’
Speaking ahead of the campaign launch on Monday, Mr Williamson said: “All children deserve to be back in school as it is the best place for their education and well-being.”
He added: “As the start of term approaches, now is the time for families to think about the practicalities of returning to school in September, whether that’s reassuring themselves that school is the best place for their child to be, or planning the school run to avoid public transport where possible.”
However, shadow education secretary Kate Green said it was essential the government had a fully effective test and trace programme in place if parents were to have the confidence to send their children back.
“Labour has repeatedly called for every child to be safely back in school by September, but it has taken the government until now to realise that it has failed to reassure parents and teachers,” she said.
“Their slow and chaotic handling of school reopening puts the education and well-being of a generation of children at risk.
“We need to see a credible plan for getting children back next month, which includes getting test, trace and isolate up to scratch, and ensuring pupils and staff are safe and feel confident,” Ms Green said.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT head teachers’ union, welcomed the announcement of a public information campaign.
“Everyone wants to see children back in schools as soon as possible, but the success of this will depend largely on what happens in wider society and will be a gigantic national team effort,” he said.
“It is very important that everyone understands the part they will play, what their responsibilities are and what to expect in September.”