UK

Boris Johnson news – live: Schools told to teach 32.5 hours a week or more as ‘new council tax rebate planned’

Children would need to be taught from 8.45am to 3.15pm under the new proposals

(PA)

Schools across the country will be told to provide at least 32.5 hours of teaching a week under a new government plan, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed.

The Schools White Paper will set out the new requirement when it is published tomorrow but the government has not made any new money available to fund the increase in teaching hours.

Most primary and secondary schools already offer a 32.5-hour week, but Mr Zahawi said there are discrepancies that need to be abolished by 2023.

Education minister says closing of schools ‘was a mistake’

“A child who receives 20 minutes less teaching time per day ultimately ends up missing out on two weeks of learning a year,” he explained on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak has been branded “Mr Tax” by Labour as it accused him of “acting in his own interest” in the spring statement.

The chancellor is reportedly planning a new council tax rebate after initially announcing a £150 refund to help households with sky-high energy costs.

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We’re pausing our live coverage for today, join us again tomorrow for more updates on UK politics.

Katy Clifton27 March 2022 13:44

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Half of Brits believe visa requirements should be scrapped for Ukrainians, poll finds

More than half of UK voters believe visa requirements should be scrapped for fleeing Ukrainians who hope to come here, a new poll for The Independent has found.

Some 54 per cent agreed the government should scrap the paperwork needed to come to the UK, whilst 21 per cent believe it should remain.

The findings come as charities warned the visa process for the Home for Ukraine scheme was proving too “slow and bureaucratic”.

Read the exclusive story from my colleague Andrew Woodcock here:

Zaina Alibhai27 March 2022 12:29

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Rishi ‘Mr Tax’ Sunak fails to act in interest of British people. Ashworth says

Rishi Sunak has been branded “Mr Tax” by Labour as it accused him of failing to act in the interest of Britons.

The nickname was given to the chancellor by frontbencher Jonathan Ashworth who warned pensioners had been “cutting back on hot meals” and “forgoing hot showers” to cope with the rising cost of living.

“Rishi Sunak absolutely had more room for manoeuvre in this spring statement and mini budget, but rather than acting in the interests of the British people, he was playing games,” the shadow work and pensions secretary told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

“He was acting in his own interest because he thinks by offering an income tax cut in two years that’ll help him politically with Conservative MPs if there’s a leadership contest or that’ll fit the Tory election grid.”

Read the full story from my colleague Richard Wheeler.

Zaina Alibhai27 March 2022 12:01

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Rishi Sunak ‘wrongly claimed’ VAT cut on solar panel was only possible because of Brexit

Chancellor Rishi Sunak wrongly claimed his decision to axe VAT on solar panels was only possible because of Brexit, experts have said.

The decision to remove the five per cent rate was hailed by Tory MPs but it has since emerged the European Council put forward a similar directive three months ago.

In it, it extended the current VAT exemption for food, medicine and public transport as well as the “supply and installation of solar panels on and adjacent to private dwellings, housing and public and other buildings used for activities in the public interest”.

My colleague Rob Merrick reports here:

Zaina Alibhai27 March 2022 11:30

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Minister denies royal Caribbean tour photos were problematic as Raheem Sterling did the same thing

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s tour of the Caribbean is not a “reminder of colonialism” despite photos of them shaking hands with young people behind a chain link fence, Nadhim Zahawi has said.

The education secretary was questioned on controversial photos of the couple but argued they were not problematic as Manchester City and England footballer Raheem Sterling did the same thing.

(Reuters)

“There’s a picture of Raheem Sterling shaking hands with the same kids yet was celebrated as a way of engaging with young people. Yet, there’s some criticism of William and Katherine doing the same thing,” he told the BBC.

He described  the prince as “very wise” for statements made on tour, ensuring it was the people of the Commonwealth who themselves decided if “they want to be part of this family of nations”.

Zaina Alibhai27 March 2022 11:02

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Zahawi confirms plans for a longer school week by end of 2023

Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed plans for a longer school week vowing to bridge the gap between the discrepancies seen across the country.

The education secretary argued a child who received 20 minutes less teaching time per say ultimately ends up missing out on two weeks of learning a year.

“The average school day is 32-and-a-half hours. Some schools, thousands of schools, are 30 minutes lower than that – so we want schools to be, sort of, 9am to 3.30pm,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

“I’d like them all to do it by the end of this year, but I know some will have logistical problems. Which is why we’ve said by next year.”

Zaina Alibhai27 March 2022 10:35

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Russian sanctions can only be lifted after a full withdrawal of troops, Truss says

Sanctions against Russian oligarchs, banks and businesses cannot be lifted until Russia ends its invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said.

It is only until Vladimir Putin commits to “no further aggression” and fully withdraws troops can the embargoes be lifted.

The comments were backed by Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi who insisted “any peace deal has to take into account the wish of the free Ukrainian people.”

“I think the Russian illegal invasion has to end and the Russian army has to leave the Ukraine, and it’s up to the Ukrainian people, they must be very much the ones who decide what that peace looks like,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

My colleague Sam Blewett has the full story.

Zaina Alibhai27 March 2022 10:00

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Zahawi admits closing schools during Covid pandemic was a ‘mistake’

The closure of schools and cancellation of exams during Covid pandemic was a “mistake”, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has admitted.

“I will do everything in my power never again to close schools, and the prime minister absolutely agrees with me,” he said on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

However, he declined to criticise his predecessor Gavin Williamson who oversaw the fiasco saying he had “very little choice” but to take that action.

Mr Zahawi also defended Mr Williamson’s controversial knighthood following his second sacking as a minister, insisting his work in the department will “transform the fortunes of young people in our country who may not want to go to university”.

Zaina Alibhai27 March 2022 09:40

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Zahawi admits the crisis in Ukrainian brings back memories of him fleeing Iraq

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has admitted the plight of Ukranian refugees has brought back memories of his own family’s escape from Iraq which saw him arrive in the UK as an 11-year-old who could not speak English.

“[I felt] a combination of anger, huge loss because you’re ripped away from all the things you held dear. The protective layers of family and home, and you don’t understand why this is happening to you,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

“The first few weeks I hid at the back of the classroom. I tried to string words together in my head but by the time I did, my classmates’ conversation had moved on.”

Mr Zahawi said his own experience has helped shape preparations that will see his department welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the education system.

Zaina Alibhai27 March 2022 09:24

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It’s up to the Russian people to decide who leads thier country, Zahawi says

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said it is up to the Russian people to decide who leads their country.

US President Joe Biden yesterday insisted Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” during an impassioned speech in Warsaw, whilst appealing to Russians to stand up against the war.

Asked whether the government echoed the his sentiments, Mr Zahawi told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I think that’s up to the Russian people.

“The Russian people, I think, are pretty fed up with what is happening in Ukraine, this illegal invasion, the destruction of their own livelihoods, their economy is collapsing around them and I think the Russian people will decide the fate of Putin and his cronies.”

Zaina Alibhai27 March 2022 08:58

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