SENDING all schoolchildren back at once is a "risky decision" that could be a "big mess", a Bradford teaching union has warned.

Ian Murch, president of the Bradford branch of the National Education Union, said it was "optimistic" to think infection levels will be low enough by March 8 to make it safe for schools to reopen.

The Government has confirmed schools will reopen on March 8 to all students as part of the Prime Minister's roadmap out of lockdown, which will be revealed in full later today.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted schools are safe despite admitting they are "vectors of transmission". The Government has also consistently ignored calls for teachers and school staff to be given priority for vaccination to protect them when schools do open.

Mr Murch said: "It's a risky decision to send all children back because of the lack of evidence of exactly how low the transmission rate of the virus will be by that date.

"Certainly, you would not be opening schools now with the present levels of transmission, so it does rely on the Government's optimistic assessments being right.

"What we wanted was a careful reopening in stages, rather than everyone at once, sending back certain year groups gradually.

"Sending everyone back at once, that could be a big mess, which you could avoid by doing some groups at a time."

Earlioer today Labour leader Keir Starmer criticised the Government for not using half-term to vaccinate school staff ahead of reopening in a fortnight's time, but Mr Murch said it should have been done even earlier.

"Doing it earlier would have given school staff a level of immunity before they return," he added.

"It would be good if school staff were protected but it wouldn't remove the risk for everyone, such as children passing it between themselves and onto their families at home."

He also raised concerns about plans to roll out mass testing in schools. This had been planned to begin in January, but was put on hold by the third national lockdown.

Mr Murch concluded: "We have a lot of concerns about testing and how it will be possible to test all children effectively, and how much time it will take and who will do it.

"Even then, the tests aren't totally reliable so they will tell you some people have the virus but not everyone."