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Back to School?

May 19, 2020 2:50 PM

ggds (Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash)Plans to start gradually reopening schools have proved controversial, with unions challenging the government over its target for some classes for return on 1 June.

Schools have been told to prepare for early year settings, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to return to the classroom in smaller sizes from the start of next month, and to start reintroducing more face-to-face lessons for Year 10 and Year 12 students.

All primary school students would also be back in school for a month before summer under the government's goal.

There are strong arguments to say the lock-down has particularly damaged the poorer in society. Whilst fee paying schools and paid tutors have moved on line with zoom based interactive classes state schools have been much more patchy with research showing shorter days. For those without broadband or with family circumstances unsuited home learning education has for some pretty much stopped putting at risk recent progress in closing the learning gap for poorer pupils

Since the announcement the media has been full of stories that question whether it is safe to return which makes it hard for parents to decide what is right for their children's and their families health
We have been told
* Just a week after one-third of French schoolchildren went back to school in an easing of the coronavirus lockdown, there has been a flurry of about 70 Covid-19 cases linked to schools. https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/world-news/around-70-new-coronavirus-cases-18271476

* Doctors have backed teachers' unions by saying Covid-19 infection rates are too high for England's schools to reopen.https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-52669441. The British Medical Association said teachers and heads were "absolutely right" to urge caution and prioritise testing to avoid a second spike.

* Government guidance says marking books is not safe for teachers https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/may/18/marking-books-not-safe-suggests-new-coronavirus-guidance-for-teachers

* And perhaps most damning of all Michael Gove everyone's least favourite used car salesman has been touring TV stations saying it will be safe even though he can give no guarantees of course to support the contention

One of our members locally helps to run an after-school and holiday club, which is also expected to take non-keyworker children from 1st June. They take children from a dozen or so schools, 30-odd in the holidays, and have about a 50:50 ratio of mainstream and special needs children, some of whom are simply incapable of understanding social distancing. Guidance for childcare settings is squeezed into one sentence at the end of the Government's schools guidance; it says, to paraphrase, no-one needs any form of PPE, just keep hand washing and social distancing and it'll be fine. She says she can't think of a better disease vector than this set-up.

They absolutely want to have the kids back - they are all too aware that there are some children and families who have been struggling - but she says" we must reopen in a fashion that is safe for children, families, and our staff! The only way we can see to do this is firstly to start with a low level of circulating disease, and then to have a fast, efficient track and trace system so that if the disease hits, we can take precautions. Neither of those factors are in place today, nor are likely to be present by 1st June"

So what are parents to do? Layla Moran the Liberal Democrat Education spokesman is quite clear

Before being an MP, I was a teacher. I'm keenly aware that every day schools remain shut the disadvantage gap widens and the students in need of the most support from teachers and support staff are being left behind.

More than this, it's the most vulnerable children I'm most worried about. Are they eating? Are they safe, let alone learning?

So, I want schools to open, but it has to be safe for them to open too, for children, staff and wider society.

That's why in the House of Commons, I asked the Education Secretary to urgently release the scientific advice for reopening schools.

The Government has failed to consult with school leaders, teachers and unions on the details of its guidance for reopening schools, and that's just not good enough.

We need reassurance that the decisions are being made based on public health advice only, and not economic fears.

And, of course, parents are under pressure, and I'm sure many are very keen to get their children back to schools. But we must put everyone's safety first

I also called on the government to guarantee that all children, of all ages, will be given the equipment and funding to learn safely, either at home or in school.

Schools should not be reopened until we see scientific evidence from the government that it's safe to do so. Now is the time to be transparent, cooperative and proactive.