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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 April 2020

No 'back to school' until outbreak is under control and trade union agreed safety arrangements

  (Click to enlarge)

Martin Powell-Davies, National Education Union member

Tory splits over a coronavirus 'exit strategy' are being played out over the question of when to fully reopen schools. For now, the more far-sighted representatives of capitalism have managed to resist calls for a reckless early return - but the internal battle is ongoing.

Of course, with growing pressures on their incomes and well-being, a full return to school would lift some of the burden on working-class families. But most understand that the pressure to open schools isn't driven by concerns about welfare or education. The most rapacious Tories just want childcare in place so that big business can reap their profits again, never mind the risks to their workforce.

Hardship

In fact, most schools haven't completely closed. Smaller numbers of children from key-worker families, and others facing hardship, have been offered ongoing lessons. But take-up has so far been generally less than expected. Parents understand the health risks better than those planning an early return.

Opening schools now would be a major risk to public health. Yes, few children would show symptoms, but they would be spreading the virus far and wide - on the bus home, back to their parents and grandparents. The poorest families, those with the worst overcrowding at home, would be most at risk.

World Health Organization advice is clear that no 'exit' should take place until Covid-19 transmission is under control. Britain isn't even yet at the 'peak' of the outbreak, let alone getting cases and death rates down to a controlled number.

'Exit strategy'

Even when existing cases are brought under control, any new clusters would then need to be rapidly identified and isolated through testing and tracing of contacts of those carrying Covid-19. In other words, any genuine 'exit strategy' depends on the government correcting its failure to deliver on mass testing first.

Even when they've managed that, a return will not be straightforward. Secure social distancing simply isn't possible in a school environment. Many adults can't manage it consistently in a supermarket, let alone children in a classroom!

Before any school reopens there needs to be prior trade union agreement over working arrangements, including PPE needs, cleaning provision and testing of suspected cases. If staff feel unsafe after reopening, unions must back members leaving their workplace if risks aren't addressed.

Finally, when schools do go safely back, there must be a return to a better education system than before. Let's scrap education inspectors Ofsted and Estyn and league tables for good, teach a broader curriculum, and get rid of the privatised agencies that have been ripping off supply staff.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
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  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 21 April 2020:


Frontline workers speak out

Where's our PPE? Where's our testing? Where's our money?

London bus drivers' action over safety stops front door boarding

Care homes coronavirus scandal: blood on their hands

PPE shortages: "I feel so bloody angry"

Trade union activists from across the south of England discuss the battle for safety on the frontline

Management tells carers PPE would 'worry' residents

Councils must demand control of supplies and reversal of austerity

More dispatches from the front: 'There are so many more patients dying'


World economy

World economic crisis: A Marxist approach to the coronavirus crunch


Workplace news

No 'back to school' until outbreak is under control and trade union agreed safety arrangements

DWP: Action on workers' safety, and protection of pay and conditions needed

JD Sports: Shut up shop and give us full pay!

RMT: Lift the suspension of Steve Hedley

Bromley Libraries 'restructure' in middle of pandemic!


Lenin at 150

Lenin at 150: A revolutionary life - and the relevance of his ideas to today's working-class struggles


Coronavirus news

National plan for testing needed

Capitalist press attacks Tory incompetence

Tory think tank proposes attack on pensions

Shocking increase in domestic violence killings

US private healthcare system in meltdown

Coronavirus news in brief


Workplace safety

The history of struggle to make the workplace safe


Campaigns

Excellent support for Socialist Party special appeal

Why I joined the Socialist Party

Clapping, driving, postering - for workers' rights

The role of the Socialist during the corona crisis

Policies that really protect the NHS

Coronavirus: Students' charter

Socialism the Podcast: What do our listeners think?


Readers' opinion

Covid-19 patient speaks out: fantastic support from under-resourced health workers

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters


 

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