Sir Keir Starmer has warned Boris Johnson it is his duty to ensure schools in England re-open in September as planned.
The Labour leader sought to pile pressure on the Government, insisting pupils must return to the classroom after six months away due to the coronavirus crisis, “no ifs, no buts, no equivocation”.
The Prime Minister has said re-opening schools is a “moral duty”, but Sir Keir accused him of failing to understand that it is his “moral responsibility” to make it happen.
The Labour leader’s intervention comes as the Government is facing a backlash after thousands of pupils in England had their A-level grades downgraded after their teacher assessments were rejected by the exams regulator, Ofqual.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Sir Keir said it was essential for the well-being and life chances of children that they were able to return to normal education next month.
“So, let me send a very clear message to the Prime Minister: I don’t just want all children back at school next month, I expect them back at school. No ifs, no buts, no equivocation,” he said.
“Let me be equally clear: 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.
“My offer to help the Government re-open schools still stands, but responsibility for making it happen lies squarely at the door of Number 10.”
Sir Keir said ministers needed to show the same “grit and determination” which produced the NHS Nightingale hospitals and the Government’s furlough scheme when it came to schools.
“Instead, Boris Johnson wasted months flailing around blaming everybody else and refusing to take any responsibility or show any leadership,” he said.
“His priorities were wrong too. He set up a ‘task force’ for the reopening of bowling alleys, but refused my offer to do the same for schools.
“He set a deadline for reopening the economy, but ditched his commitment to get classrooms back open before the summer.
“We cannot afford to see the same mistakes being made over and over again. Children, young people and families must be a national priority with the leadership to match.”
The Labour leader also issued a renewed appeal to Mr Johnson to abandon the system for moderating A-level results and to accept teacher assessments instead.
“‘Levelling up’ was meant to be the priority of Boris Johnson’s administration. However, many young people have seen their futures levelled down with one clean sweep,” he said.
“The ladder of opportunity has been kicked away and the injustices within our society will only be deepened as a consequence. It has been a shambles.”