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Reopening schools 'critical' for small businesses

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
Joshua Lee, right, disinfects tables at Queen's Hill Primary School in Costessey near Norwich, England,  Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. Britain’s prime minister is asking parents to set aside their fears and send their children back to school next month when the nation’s schools fully reopen for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut then down more than five months ago. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)
Joshua Lee, right, disinfects tables at Queen's Hill Primary School in Costessey near Norwich, England, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA via AP

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said getting school re-openings right is “critical” for the successful revival of Britain’s entrepreneurial businesses.

Millions of pupils are due to return to schools this week as they reopen with new health and safety measures in place. However, there is uncertainty over what proportion of pupils will return, with some parents and teachers expressing concerns about safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mike Cherry, the national chairman of the FSB, said the safe return of children to schools was vital for many businesses across the UK that need childcare and rely on commuting kids and parents for their business.

“Many of the 16 million people who work in a small business across the UK have childcare responsibilities,” Cherry said. “Equally, there are firms that rely directly on footfall linked to schools.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: UK government ‘frightening’ women in row over back-to-work threats

The FSB surveyed over 5,000 of its members and found 23% said school reopening would impact their ability to get business up and running again.

“The safe return of pupils to schools is critical to getting our small firms firing on all cylinders again,” Cherry said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said parents had a “moral duty” to send their kids back to school earlier this month and a poll last week found rising support for getting kids back in the classroom. 65% of people surveyed by YouGov supported schools reopening, the BBC reported, up from 57% three weeks ago.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said on Friday a survey of 4,000 of its members found 97% were planning to welcome all their pupils back at the start of the autumn term.

“Everyone wants to see pupils back in class next week, with their teachers and their classmates,” said Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT.