The cabinet is prepared to look at reopening primary schools earlier than January 18, if coronavirus infection rates allow it, prime minister Mark Rutte said during Tuesday’s debate on the new measures.
Rutte came under pressure from across the political spectrum to ease the five-week closure of primary schools, particularly given the impact on more vulnerable pupils.
‘Forcing parents to work at home by taking away children’s education?’ party leader Jesse Klaver said during the debate. ‘We learned earlier this year that closing schools is damaging to all children, most of all to those who are disadvantaged. Given Schiphol airport, churches and football can go ahead, this is a bitter pill to swallow.’
In order to reopen primary schools on January 11, a decision will have to be taken by January 3. ‘And we still won’t know a lot by then,’ Rutte said. ‘I am not saying no, but I do not want to awaken any false expectations. So don’t be angry if it cannot happen.’
In November, Oxford University researchers said the suspension of face to face teaching in Dutch primary schools during the first lockdown did have a more serious impact on children whose parents have lower levels of education.
At the height of the pandemic in April, one in five Dutch school heads said they had not been able to get in touch with all of their pupils since schools were closed because of coronavirus. In total, teachers failed to reach some 5,200 pupils.
During the debate, MPs also criticised the situation at Schiphol airport, following the publication of videos showing large crowds.
Rutte said that transport minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen will again talk to airlines to remind them that all non-essential travel should not go ahead. People who press ahead with their winter sports holidays are ‘anti social’, the prime minister said.
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