The past week has been filled with discussions about children returning to school next month. Many people including I would support this move if the Government could guarantee the safety of teachers, staff, and our young people. As of yet they are unable to do this. The National Education Union have set out five tests that the Government must meet before they will support the wider reopening of schools;
1- The new case count must be much lower than it is now, with a sustained downward trend.
2- There must be a national plan for social distancing and appropriate PPE provision.
3- Comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff.
4- Protocols to be put in place to test a whole school when a case occurs.
5- Vulnerable staff, and staff who live with vulnerable people, must work from home.
The Government must consult with the trade unions on their plans. The forced reopening of schools is not the way to go and will endanger thousands needlessly. I commend the Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council on his recent statement where he outlined that schools will not be penalised if they decide that it is unsafe to reopen, and when schools do reopen, parents will not be penalised for their child’s non-attendance until the pandemic is over.
Teachers have been doing a fantastic job adapting lessons for online learning and looking after the children of key workers during this crisis. There are concerns about the gaps in curriculum learning but ultimately our health must come first.
My concern is that if we rush out of lockdown without the proper guidance in place, we could see a second surge of the virus. We must continue to shield those most at risk and carry on following the initial guidelines to stay home and stay safe.