It is reckless to reopen schools before it is safe

The government’s decision to push ahead with reopening schools on 1 June is reckless and dangerous. Britain still has the highest death toll in Europe. The National Education Union, whose members are being asked to work in schools, has rightly raised the question of five tests before schools reopen. These should be met before any return to schools – and other workplaces – is considered.

Some local councils have said that schools will not be ready to open on 1 June (PM accepts some English primary schools may not return on 1 June, 24 May). Others should follow suit and say schools won’t open until the five tests are met. Parents have rightly organised meetings up and down the country against the reopening of schools. Most workers would have to use public transport to return to work, and it is clear this cannot be operated safely on a mass scale at present. As of 25 May, 43 transport workers have died from coronavirus in London alone. There are already far too many workers engaged in non-essential production, such as on most building sites, who should not be working.

We reject the government’s attempts to use economic hardship – for example, the winding down of the furlough scheme – to force people into unsafe work. We have seen nothing that suggests that the government will ensure safe working. We therefore call on the trade union movement to support school staff and other workers who are concerned about a return to unsafe schools and other workplaces on 1 June or beyond. No one should be forced to return to an unsafe workplace – and we support them if they refuse to do so.
Jeremy Corbyn MP for Islington North, Nadia Whittome MP for Nottingham East, Sarah Woolley General secretary, Bakers Food and Allied Workers, Jane Loftus vice-president, Communication Workers Union, Karen Reissmann People Before Profit: Health Worker Covid Activists group and NHS nurse

I am a headteacher who wants all 360 pupils back in my school because I know they thrive here. I know school will not look the same and that makes me sad, but it has to be different and we will make it work.

Some pupils will have slipped behind academically, some will have been exposed to things that have done them harm and some will be struggling socially and emotionally – we will deal with this just like we did before.

Many children have thrived on time spent with their families; our job is to build on this and not lose the skills they have gained. I am proud of our pupils who have coped amazingly, of staff who have worked tirelessly and of our parents who have been kind, generous and supportive. The school community will bounce back because of the people in it.

I would like some clarity, honesty and common sense. Parents and staff need to be reassured about risks; the messages have been frightening and people have responded. You can’t just change that and expect people to follow because you say so.

Don’t send me guidance that suggests I buy soap or use my science lab to teach in – I have done the former and I haven’t got the latter! Stop using education as a political football. We aren’t heroes or villains – we understand the balance between the economy and education. Remember, I make decisions, meet need and pull together thinking every single day. It is what education is for. Trust me.
Elisabeth Broers
Robin Hood junior school, Sutton, London

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