As parents and carers anxiously wait to hear as to whether their child’s school will be opening, many will be concerned about the decision they will have to make. For most parents and carers, their major concern will be for the safety of their child. The scientific advice is that there must be an effective test, track and trace system in place, which now does not exist. For many parents and carers, they will be in a position where one child returns to school and another remains at home, because they are in different year groups. For many this will make it an agonising choice and one that many parents and carers will not be willing to make. Labour Councillors have been raising concerns.
Bridgwater Town Councillor Mick Lerry (Labour, Bridgwater Victoria)and a long time Teachers Union rep, says “Yes, we all want pupils and students to be able to return to education and there is concern that this learning opportunity will be lost. In some countries the decision has already been made to open schools in September. The Government have announced that Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 should return to Primary schools with social distancing in place, which will be impossible. The Government ignored the Scientific advice to have alternative weeks for children to attend school. The Government also points towards Europe where children are returning to education. Class sizes in Europe are smaller than class sizes in England and investment has been made in extra washing facilities. If you are going to split a class in England into smaller pupil units, in some Somerset schools you will need three classrooms to achieve this reduction. At the same time many Headteachers are not sure how many pupils will return to school”.
“The Government are also not clear as to what their strategy is for the inclusion of all pupils and students into full time education. In Primary schools, when will the other Year groups be able to attend school and this will also apply to Secondary and Further education? How will school’s mange social distancing, as more pupils return to education?”, says Mick. “How safe will the school environment be for pupils, students and staff. Considering that nationally 60 education workers have died from Coronavirus, in education settings. Somerset County Council have already outlined that it will be difficult for schools to reopen on the 1st June and school transport will be a real problem”.
Mick continued “Labour urges the Government to work collaboratively with trade unions, headteachers, governors, local authorities and trusts to open schools and colleges when it is safe to return. There must be a test, trace and tracking system in place and all education establishments should only open when safety conditions have been met. A clear roadmap should be in place, to explain how all pupils and students will be included and allowed to return to education”
Non-Attendance ‘would not attract fines’
Councillor Leigh Redman (Bridgwater South, Labour) the Leader of the Somerset County Council Labour Group says “I fully support the staff at every level in this, it is hard to balance the wellbeing of both sides in this (Staff & Children), none of this is helped by the ridiculous position the government has placed on head teachers and parents, without clear guidance (even following the most recent government release), there is massive differences between what is said and the position on the front line, I recently reminded parents of the secretary of states comments that the choice is for parents and none attendance would not attract fines at this time. I understand that Somerset schools are being encouraged to take more children back, the County council has offered to supply any PPE that is deemed necessary (although ridiculously schools may be charged for this), every school is getting an emergency PPE pack, but with such a vast difference between education environments social distancing between staff and pupils is tremendously difficult to manage. I know that in many cases parents are taking the decision away from schools by deciding not to send their children, but it is important to remember that schools have not been closed and will remain open for children of critical workers, even over the half term, staff have been amazing.”