Commenting on the Prime Minister’s confirmation that wider opening of schools will start from June 1, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“Government should be bound to protect all of us during this frightening and difficult time. Yet the announcement today about England pressing ahead with wider school opening flies in the face of this duty. We are not saying only go back when it is 100% safe. Nothing ever is. But we are saying meet your own tests, produce sound scientific evidence, and return when the time is right to ensure the virus can be contained as much as possible.
“Heads, teachers, support staff and school staff have all been working through this challenging time. Schools have been open and contact has been maintained with families and the children they teach. They have done so to support vulnerable children and children of key workers while their parents and carers keep the country going. This has been done bravely and willingly.
“School staff have many questions which should be answered. Why, when the rest of the country is still required to observe social distancing, is it safe for schools not to? Fifteen pupils to a class makes social distancing an impossibility in our small classrooms and in particular with very young children who will not understand the concept. Denmark, who the Government quite rightly praise for their approach to wider school opening has a limit of five children when outside and three when inside.
“Our latest survey shines a light on the problems facing a significant number of members in schools right now, where pupil numbers are at an average of 2%. Even with that in mind, 41% say their school cannot maintain regular handwashing, a majority (53%) are not being offered appropriate PPE and one third (31%) believe the arrangements for cleaning their classroom are inadequate.
“Today’s final report from Independent SAGE again casts grave doubt over the Prime Minister’s decision to press ahead with a June 1 wider opening of schools. Independent SAGE said ‘this decision threatens not just the health of school communities but also of wider society’. We fail to understand why the Government would take such risks.
“Time and again we have had to ask for the scientific thinking behind wider school opening. Time and again we have not had the answers.
"The Government's Covid-19 strategy has drifted steadily from dither to disaster. Revelations in recent days have severely damaged public trust, and it is not only troubling but deeply insulting and dangerous to see schools being used as a distraction."
- Unanswered Questions was published on 9 May and reflects the content of a series of letters sent to Government over previous weeks.
- Our latest members survey was published today.
- The Independent SAGE final report.