Tory full return to school plans gamble with lives
Martin Powell-Davies, National Education Union and Socialist Party member
The government’s plans for a full return to schools in September make crystal clear it has no interest in our safety or the genuine education needs of our children.
While the real dangers to public health are unfolding in Leicester, reports have been leaked which show that the Tories are gambling that children won’t spread infection in the classroom.
But the scientific evidence still suggests children can transmit the virus to each other – and back to their families – even when they aren’t showing symptoms themselves. It will be those most at risk – particularly working-class and BAME communities – that again stand to lose the most.
Test, track and trace
Without an adequate test, track and trace system in place to really protect against outbreaks, schools have had to take what precautions they can to slow widespread transmission of the virus.
Most have been operating with ‘bubbles’ of the same children always being taught together. That way, if there is an infected pupil or staff member, the risk is hopefully restricted to that group and their contacts.
Up to now, those ‘bubbles’ have been limited to a maximum of 15 children, but education secretary Gavin Williamson wants that increased to a full primary class of 30 or more.
In secondary schools, they propose teaching in full year groups of perhaps hundreds of students. Simple statistics shows that massively increases the risk of transmission. But there are to be no face coverings, and no physical distancing that would require extra space or make it impossible for all pupils to return full-time.
The other steps Williamson is recommending just shows he has no idea about education. He wants children sat in rows, facing the front, mainly learning English and Maths. If students or parents object to this Dickensian world, schools will be expected to have a focus on ‘persistently disruptive’ pupils, and parents will be fined if their children aren’t in school.
Staff and their unions are understandably weary after a long term of teaching in difficult conditions, and having to battle a callous government. But the coronavirus is showing that it isn’t about to give up any time soon. Nor must the trade unions!
We have to stand firm and refuse to implement plans that are so blatantly unsafe for public health and children’s wellbeing.
Wales: Disastrous reopening of schools
Ross Saunders, Socialist Party Wales
Reports have flooded in from teachers about the totally unprepared state of many schools as they opened in Wales, particularly the failure to deep clean in between transitioning from hub schools for key workers to schools for all children.
Others report the failure to have in place procedures to limit physical contact between children and staff, or lacking supplies of protective equipment.
But even the best preparation won’t be enough. The lockdown in Leicester is being reimposed because of a fresh outbreak that risks getting out of control after the schools reopened – and they reopened to far fewer children than Wales has.
The Welsh government should keep schools and workplaces shut, and ensure everyone is on full pay in this emergency period.