04:04PM, Thursday 21 May 2020
With the Government releasing some lock down restrictions, there is a real prospect of children going back to schools soon. I’ve been receiving many letters from concerned parents and teachers, who all want the same thing – a safe and viable plan for phased wider school openings. They don’t think such a plan exists at present and I agree with them.
Returning to school must be a priority for the sake of pupils’ education and wellbeing. Every day schools are closed only widens the attainment gap and inequalities faced by young people. However, we need to get the reopening of schools right. There are serious problems with the proposed plan to reopen on 1st June, which fails to guarantee the safety of our children and teachers.
We’ve all spent weeks in lockdown and it would be a waste of our efforts if we allowed our schools to become coronavirus factories, spreading this disease and risking the health of families and teaching staff.
It’s concerning that there has been increased criticism by some of teachers for not wanting to blindly rush back to the classroom. It’s to their credit that they’re fighting for a safe working environment, not only for themselves and their colleagues, but for our children too. This is especially important for us in Slough, where we’ve experienced high rates of coronavirus infections.
Another important aspect to bear in mind is that we have a diverse town, with many living in multi-generational households (i.e. children living with their parents and elderly grandparents). For various reasons, it’s a fact that Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic communities, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are sadly experiencing higher mortality rates. Such realities explain why many are so fearful of sending their children back to school and why it’s crucial to first get the virus spread under control.
There’s still no realistic Government guidance for how social distancing will be implemented with the age groups planned to return first, how staff and children’s families will be protected, or how class sizes of fifteen will be achieved with the resources schools have. Social distancing is of course crucial, but as a parent of two young children, I appreciate full well how difficult it is to explain that, let alone get the kids to practice it.
Government must urgently bring together education unions and other experts to create a workable plan, so schools can reopen when both the science indicates it’s safe to do so and we have the confidence of all those affected.
Ultimately, we all want the same thing. Schools that are safe to go to, safe to learn in, safe to work in, and can deliver the excellent education our children need. I hope Government listens to these legitimate concerns and deliver a viable plan in the best interests of children, families and staff.
Top Ten Articles
Slough has one of the highest COVID-19 related death rates for a local authority outside of London, national statistics reveal.