Coronavirus: Government faces increasing pressure to abandon plans to reopen schools to more students next month

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Ministers face increasing pressure from council leaders and teachers’ unions to reconsider plans to open primary schools in England to more students next month.

The Council of Calderdale, in West Yorkshire, joined forces with a certain number of local authorities to advise its schools to reopen more widely at the reception, the pupils of first and sixth years from June 1 due security issues.

The Solihull Council, which would be one of the first local conservative-led authorities to question the government’s proposed start date, warned that some school places may not be ready for the first week of June.

It came as a NASUWT teachers’ union survey suggested that only 5 percent of teachers think it will be safer for more students to return to school next month.

Patrick Roach, Secretary General of NASUWT, wrote to Gavin Williamson, the secretary of education, saying that the union was not convinced that a larger reopening of schools from June 1 is “appropriate or achievable” .

The survey of nearly 29,000 NASUWT members across England found that around nine out of 10 teachers believe that social distancing will be impossible or will be major problems and that a similar proportion is not not convinced that the proposed measures will protect their health or the health of students. students.

It also found that 87% of teachers believe that PPE is essential to protect staff from the virus.

Dr. Roach said, “The results of our investigation underscore the fact that the government has so far failed to gain teachers’ confidence in the safety of reopening schools.

“It is now imperative that the government seize all available opportunities to provide the necessary assurances that teachers are looking for.”

The union leader asked that all scientific evidence from the government’s Scientific Emergency Advisory Group (Sage) be made available to teachers and schools as soon as possible.

She intervened when education unions announced that they were to meet with Williamson at a weekly conference on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on schools.

Last week, Mary Bousted, joint secretary general of the National Education Union (NEU), told teachers not to attend planning meetings to reopen schools starting June 1.

During a Zoom meeting with union leaders on Thursday, Dr Bousted said: “The schedule is reckless. The schedule is just not sure, it is not fair, it is not achievable. “

Calderdale’s council has become the last Labor-led council in the north of England to advise its schools not to reopen more broadly from 1 June, following similar actions by Bury, Liverpool and Hartlepool.

The Sefton council will propose reopening the schools from June 15 to allow time for an “appropriate risk assessment,” said the Merseyside local authority.

A number of local authorities in England have acknowledged the safety concerns of parents and teachers during the date, but have not urged all of their schools to reject the proposed deadline.

Birmingham city council leaders have sent a letter to parents and school staff saying that they will only support schools that are open to more students when it is safe.

The statement said, “We recognize that for some schools, opening more students safely may not be possible on June 1, while parents and guardians should also feel reassured. “

He adds, “We hope that school leaders will make the right decisions for their school communities.”

Stuart Guest, director of Colebourne’s primary school in Birmingham, told parents that he didn’t plan to open more widely on June 1 because “the risks are too great”.

In a letter to families, Mr. Guest wrote, “We would always threaten the lives of my staff and the community we serve if we rushed toward wider openness.”

John Edmunds, professor of infectious disease modeling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the decision to reopen primary schools was a political decision, but he said that children were less likely to transmit coronavirus to d ‘other.

He told the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee: “It is clear that the decision whether or not to open primary schools is a political decision, it is not a scientific decision. Scientists can offer some advice.

“It seems the risk for children is low and the vast majority have no significant symptoms. “

He added, “So the risk to others may be relatively low, but overall, you have to weigh those risks against other things, risks to the community, clearly we cannot keep them children in school forever, and so on.

“The real decision, and to weigh all of these things, must be made by politicians. “

Former Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Monday that the administration of Boris Johnson was right to start reopening schools because he said that some children had received “no education” during the closings.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said, “We want children to go back to school as soon as possible because being with their teachers and friends is so important to their education and well-being.

“The plans for a cautious and gradual return of certain age groups from June 1 at the earliest are based on the best scientific and medical advice. The well-being of children and staff was at the heart of all decisions.

“We have worked closely with a range of relevant organizations, including unions, over the past eight weeks, including arranging for them to listen directly to government science advisers last Friday, and we will continue to do so.”

Press association

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