I am contacting you firstly as a Borough and Parish Councillor for Ruddington ward, but also in my capacity as a Secondary school teacher in a local Nottingham Academy, a member of the National Education Union and finally as a very concerned parent of 2 children that attend 2 fantastic local Nottinghamshire schools.
I am writing to express my concerns about the schools in my ward, which you have direct oversight as County councillors, which are facing a frightening decision about whether they can safely open to more pupils on June 1st. Let’s be clear, these schools have been open for the children of vulnerable and key worker throughout the lock-down, including during the school holidays, and have also been providing work on-line and in printed form. On top of this they have continuously carried out welfare calls/visits to families and children in the area throughout this difficult time and they have done this with selfless dedication and compassion for their students.
From discussions with staff members and parents the schools have had no difficulties with getting enough staff to volunteer for rotas, only to be expected from such a noble caring profession, and they have worked really hard collectively to protect children and staff health.
The Government has told schools it wants them open on June 1st but has provided no scientific evidence that underpins this policy change. June 1st seems a random date pulled from the air and is also an alarmingly short timescale for headteachers to plan adequately for a safe return.
I believe that the government have put the burden of risk for opening on the Headteachers and academy CEO’s and this is grossly unfair as the government should be the ones taking the lead. The government should be using sound scientific evidence to make their decisions and this should be openly shared with parents, teachers and school leaders so that we can feel secure and re-assured about these very serious decisions are being made with pupil welfare and safety at the very core.
No one wants school pupils to return to school more than the teachers do, as a teacher of 20 years I can confirm that we miss our classes, we worry very much about all the vulnerable children we are not seeing and care passionately about the welfare of the communities in which we serve.
But as a member of the profession I can categorically state that many teachers do not believe that schools will be safe by June 1st or that we can make them safe in the timescale provided in the face of rising transmission rates in the context of a pandemic. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland leaders agree with us, the BMA agrees with us, health service workers agree with us, we believe most parents agree with us and now some councils including Liverpool, Huddersfield and Doncaster have said that they believe schools cannot be ready for increasing the number of pupils in school safely by June 1st.
We know you will be communicating with schools in the area and hope that you will do all you can to discourage them from pursuing a policy that we believe places too high a risk on the health of our children, staff and communities.
Although local secondary schools are likely to have less stress placed upon them with year 10 expected to have ‘some face to face contact’ before the summer, teaching professionals are very concerned about how these plans may be implemented in our local primary schools as well as others across the county. Across the city and county a wide variety of potential plans are being suggested by different employers; some offering reception and year 1, others year 6 and still others a mixture of all these options. This confused approach is happening within the context of a stated ambition of a full opening for the month before the end of term. This is a mess to say the least and a potential disaster in the making if the worst were to occur. In secondary schools the picture is equally cloudy, will teachers be expected to teach those who choose to come to school whilst setting more work for those who don’t? Will they then be expected to set yet more work for those pupils in years that are not allowed to come to school? What will happen to the children of key-workers and vulnerable children currently in school? This situation is going to be even more chaotic than we have yet seen and it is difficult to see how rushing towards and arbitrary date is going to make the situation better.
Apart from being inconsistent, chaotic and potentially very dangerous, this approach will only serve to heighten the anxiety amongst the whole school community and this cannot be a good thing.
We hope that we will all stand together to insist schools are not opened further until we are confident that the 5 tests below are met. We want to work with HT’s to plan for an orderly and safe return. Please can I ask as County Councillors that you push for Nottinghamshire to postpone the opening of schools until they can be proven to be safe.
Thank you so much for your hard work and support of our vulnerable communities and children, and your commitment to support the opening of schools ONLY when it is safe to do so.
Support from BMA – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/15/bma-backs-teaching-unions-in-opposing-reopening-of-schools
NEU Five Tests – https://neu.org.uk/neu-five-tests-government-schools-can-re-open