COUNTY Labour chiefs have criticised the decision to try and reopen schools from June 1 and raised concerns about the health and well-being of both children, their wider families and the staff within schools.
Youngsters in reception, year one and year six could be set for a return to school next month after the Government relaxed the restrictions on schools opening as part of a wider ‘roadmap’ to bring the country out of the Coronavirus lockdown.
A final decision on whether schools reopen for a ‘phased’ return to school as early as June 1, if science shows it is safe, is set to be made in the coming days.
However more than 420,000 people have signed an NEU petition saying schools should only reopen when certain tests can be met which prove it is safe.
The concerns have been echoed by the Labour group on Worcestershire County Council who said schools and colleges should begin to reopen as soon as possible – when it’s safe for the children, their families, staff and wider society.
Leader Coun Robin Lunn said: “Schools have remained open during the Covid-19 crisis for the children of key workers and we applaud the professionalism of the staff who have kept them running.
“Any managed return to school should have full agreement between the government and teachers, based on reliable medical evidence which the BMA and other scientific bodies endorse.
“This will have the benefit of giving confidence to more parents who will feel happier about sending their children back to school,” he added.
Coun Lunn said his group supported the NEU’s five tests for whether schools should reopen; much lower recorded Covid 19 cases than currently seen, a national plan for social distancing within schools agreed by relevant parties, comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff, protocols in place to test a whole school or college where a case occurs and vulnerable staff must continue to work from home.
“We call on Worcestershire County Council to ensure these conditions are met, so any return to school in June does not leave parents or staff worried about catching Covid-19 and ensures a safe and secure environment.
“We fully appreciate it’s in the interests of all children, particularly from poorer backgrounds, to be reintegrated back into school life, but only when it is safe to do so”.
Coun Lunn said more thought should have been given to Year 10 and Year 12 children returning ahead of vital exams next year as they would understand the importance of social distancing.
Sarah Wilkins, director for education and early help at Worcestershire County Council’s Worcestershire Children First added: “We are working closely with the Department for Education, our schools, community and Worcestershire’s early years providers to plan for the phased return of some children.
“Our priority is to make sure that schools and nurseries are safe places for children and for staff.”