Teachers, parents and education staff have responded with the utmost seriousness and professionalism to this crisis. They need to be confident that public health is the first priority in all considerations concerning how we work together to combat this terrible virus. If confidence and clarity are lacking, there is a risk of chaos and greater spread of the virus.
The National Education Union (NEU) has previously written to the Government asking for clarity on the best science concerning these public health matters.
The Government has its five tests before relaxing the lockdown. Today, we outline our five tests that we think the Government should meet before moving to further opening of schools in order to create the necessary confidence amongst parents and staff.
Our five tests
We want to begin to reopen schools and colleges as soon as we can. But this needs to be safe for society, for children and their families and the staff who work in them.
We have these five tests which the Government should show will be met by reliable evidence, peer-reviewed science and transparent decision-making.
Test 1 : Much lower numbers of Covid-19 cases
The new case count must be much lower than it is now, with a sustained downward trend and confidence that new cases are known and counted promptly. And the Government must have extensive arrangements for testing and contact tracing to keep it that way.
Test 2 : A national plan for social distancing
The Government must have a national plan including parameters for both appropriate physical distancing and levels of social mixing in schools, as well as for appropriate PPE, which will be locally negotiated at school-by-school and local authority level.
Test 3 : Testing, testing, testing!
Comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff to ensure our schools and colleges don’t become hot spots for Covid-19.
Test 4 : Whole school strategy
Protocols to be put in place to test a whole school or college when a case occurs and for isolation to be strictly followed.
Test 5 : Protection for the vulnerable
Vulnerable staff, and staff who live with vulnerable people, must work from home, fulfilling their professional duties to the extent that is possible. Plans must be specifically address the protection of vulnerable parents, grandparents and carers.
Parentkind support statement:
Parentkind fully supports over 250,000 – strong petition by the NEU asking that schools should only be open when it is safe to do so. We believe that the 5 tests set by the NEU provide a clear framework for making this decision.
As an organisation Parentkind are opposed to the reopening of schools without clear criteria about how this decision will be taken and clarity about the validity of the evidence base that will underpin it. Only when school leaders, the Government, and parents are in agreement that it is time for schools to re-open should that happen.
Many parents may for valid reasons take the view that despite a decision to re-open schools they do not regard it as safe for their children or their family for them to return to school. Parentkind would like an assurance from the Government that parents not returning their children to school as a result of their safety concerns will not have these absences labelled unauthorised or face financial penalty.
Find out more about Parentkind, the leading membership organisation for parent teacher associations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.