Commenting on When should a school reopen?, the final report of Independent SAGE, published today, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“This latest report casts yet more doubt and concern over the Prime Minister’s decision to press ahead with a 1 June wider opening for schools. The Government’s primary duty should be to protect its people, but in England - unlike the rest of the UK – we are hurtling towards the further opening of schools before the scientific evidence says it is safe to do so.

“This decision threatens not just the health of school communities but also of wider society, with the clear risk of a rise in the R rate. All the sacrifices that have been made to stay indoors and try to contain this virus could be thrown away in the pursuit of fulfilling an arbitrary promise to open schools more widely from June 1.

“The National Education Union’s snapshot survey of 4,016 members, published today, shows that even with the current low pupil numbers in schools, significant problems with health and safety exist. Members speak of the inability to maintain social distancing, the lack of hand sanitiser, insufficient PPE and not enough sinks for hand washing. Come June 1 should Government continue to press ahead with their plans, this will clearly get significantly worse. (1)

“We believe the right thing to do is to wait a couple of weeks for the level of coronavirus to recede further and for the test and track programme to become embedded. We must not take risks with the nation’s children, their parents or school staff.

“We agree with Independent SAGE that the extent of the epidemic in Britain is greater than other European nations and that our school system is quite different. We have much larger class sizes in the UK and in England schools have much less support from local authorities.

“No one is saying go back when it is 100% safe, but with 37,460 people  across the country having already lost their lives to Covid-19 the Prime Minister must accept his responsibilities to the country and draw back from this arbitrary date.”


Editor’s note