THE ONE-METRE distancing rule is to be abandoned in schools when they open in September, the Tory government announced yesterday to the alarm of teachers, pupils and parents alike. Yet, if parents refuse to send their children back to school, because they feel it is unsafe to do so, they will be fined!
The safety plans issued by the Department for Education say that ‘given the improved position, the balance of risk is now overwhelmingly in favour of children returning to school’.
The guidance sets out how schools will operate with all pupils back full time – with an expansion of the ‘protective bubble’ system already used in schools.
Kate Green MP, the new Labour Shadow Education Secretary said that her party opposes fining parents if their children are not in school, while then calling for a united front with the Tories. She said in Parliament yesterday: ‘The government has been asleep at the wheel, but heads and staff cannot be left to do this alone. Labour is calling for a cross-party taskforce to focus urgently on getting the necessary arrangements in place so that all students can return safely in September.’
Dr Patrick Roach NASUWT general secretary said: ‘The government is predicating its plans for fully opening schools in September on the assumption that virus transition rates continue to fall and let’s hope that is the case. But of course in recent days we have seen evidence of a spike, a second wave, which has led to the lockdown of the City of Leicester and we have seen within that, of course, evidence of virus transmission amongst under-18s.
‘That is going to cause some very concerns for parents, but also for teachers and the workforce in schools more generally.’
Kevin Courtney Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said yesterday: ‘The government scientists need to look at the practical reality of how this would work and then to sign off on it.
‘They need to say that this would not lead to an increase in the transmission rate. To look at how it would actually work. Not words on a piece of paper. What is the practical reality?
‘We think that in most schools it is going to be very difficult to keep those big secondary bubbles separate from one another.
‘The guidelines put an emphasis on test and trace, but parents, school leaders and teachers will be wondering “where is it?” The NEU has been calling for track and trace since March.
‘Boris Johnson promised a “world beating” system by 1st June but has still not delivered anything like an adequate programme. The government needs to be able to inspire confidence that track, trace and isolate will be capable of taking the load by September, or we will see patterns of school closures like the one just announced in Leicester.
‘A poor plan, such as this one, risks failing children, parents and staff alike. We need much clearer science as well as guidance that is grounded in reality, for the full return of all pupils to work. As ever, the National Education Union is ready to talk with government to find a way forward.’