Schoolchildren have become the pandemic’s “forgotten victims”, Tory MPs have warned Boris Johnson, amid a growing backlash against plans that could keep classrooms closed until Easter. A dozen Conservative MPs, including the former Cabinet minister Esther McVey and Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, have backed a campaign by the parents’ pressure group UsforThem to fully reopen schools. They argue that the schools shutdown means education has become an “optional extra”, with the gulf between the most disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers growing “by the day”. At the same time, the pressure on parents who are trying to hold down full-time jobs while also acting as teachers “is simply becoming too much”, they say, meaning schools should reopen now. Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, is expected to announce as soon as this week that schools will remain shut to all but the most vulnerable and children of key workers beyond the February half-term break. On Sunday Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said the full reopening of schools before the Easter holiday was merely a “hope” rather than an expectation.