PLANS to send all school in England back at the same time could lead to a rise in Covid rates, parents and education leaders have warned.

As part of his “road map” out of lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday primary and secondary schools as well as colleges will reopen next Monday (March 8).

Schools have been closed to all students except those classed as vulnerable and the children of key workers since the start of the Christmas holidays in December.

The Government has often said schools reopening would be its priority when easing lockdown restrictions and education establishments will be the first places to reopen after the third national lockdown.

However, Education unions have warned the Government against adopting an en-mass approach to reopening.

A joint statement issued by nine unions on Friday warned the move would “trigger another spike in Covid infections, prolong the disruption of education, and risk throwing away the hard-won progress made in suppressing the virus over the course of the latest lockdown”.

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Jean Quinn, from the North East Essex division of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “Teachers and school staff want young people back in schools and returning to their education as soon as it is safe to do so.

“But it seems to return en-mass could potentially bring another spike in infections and what Wales and Scotland are doing is a phased approach with the youngest children returning first.

“What we would like to see is the youngest children go back first and then if it goes well continue through the age groups.

“Our concern is not about children catching it, but about the spread in the community. We are urging the Government to take it slow and steady.”

She added: “We are not opposed to children going back, but we think it might be slightly reckless to do it all in one go.”

Readers also took to the Gazette Facebook page to express their concern over the Government’s proposals.

Jan Plummer said: “Teachers should be vaccinated first, and it depends on the spread in the community.

“Many parts of Colchester still have double the rates we had last April. We are looking at a fourth lockdown if this goes ahead.”

Louise Richards said she didn’t think schools should be reopening on March 8.

She added: “Virus and rates currently higher than September and new variants more transmissible.

“When most teachers and parents are vaccinated it’s safer, not before.”

But some readers said the Government was right to prioritise reopening schools.

Abbie Shannon said: “Children have sacrificed so much already.

“Now the elderly and most vulnerable have been vaccinated which means the hospital admission rate has dropped dramatically, schools should be be the priority for reopening.”

But, she added: “I do think people should still have the option to carry on with remote learning for longer if they feel the risk is too great just yet, but maybe without teachers having to do live lessons for them.”