Teachers and parents worried by prospect of schools re-opening
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Suffolk teachers and parents have raised their concerns about the prospect of schools re-opening in the county.
In his roadmap out of the coronavirus crisis, prime minister Boris Johnson said that schools could start to re-open to a limited number of year groups from the start of June.
Under the plans, reception, year-one and year-six pupils could all be set to head back to the classroom.
Mr Johnson said on Sunday night: “At the earliest by June 1 – after half-term – we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, year-one and year-six.
“Our ambition is that secondary pupils facing exams next year will get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays.”
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However, concerns have been raised about the details of the plans and whether it is appropriate for young people to be going back to school at all.
Anne Humphrys, co-chairman of Suffolk Parent Carer Network (SPCN), said that a number of parents had already been in touch, concerned by the safety and impact of their children going back.
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“At a time when families are already struggling with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is frustrating that the government continues to make announcements which have not been thought through and discussed at a local level and which cause unnecessary distress and anxiety,” said Mrs Humphrys.
“We have had contact from a significant number of families since Sunday night who are extremely concerned about the prospect of schools re-opening so soon and who are worried about their children’s safety.
“There are many questions to be answered such as what are families supposed to do if one of their family is shielding, how can families be assured that it is safe, what will happen if families do not feel it is safe for their children and young people to go back - will they be fined?
“It is incredibly confusing and it makes us so sad that families continue to be put through this.”
Teachers have also raised concerns about how social distancing measures could be put into place.
Former Suffolk headteacher and general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, said: “We are concerned about the idea of reopening primary schools to significantly more children after half-term.
“It is not clear to us how the reintroduction of such significant numbers of pupils in primary schools can be safely managed, particularly considering that reception and year one comprise very young children with whom social distancing is extremely difficult.
“And we are worried that personal protective equipment in schools has so far been dismissed, leaving an over-reliance on social distancing in environments where this is inherently problematic.
“We are not trying to impede the reopening of schools. Throughout the crisis we have highlighted the importance of bringing in more pupils when the time is right to do so and there is a clear plan in place to manage it safely.
“Unfortunately, we are not persuaded that either of these two simple tests has yet been met.
“We welcome the prime minister’s assurance that this timescale is not set in stone and will be postponed if necessary, and we will continue to work constructively with ministers and officials, as we have done throughout this crisis.”
Suffolk’s NEU has also raised concerns about the plans.
“The NEU is very concerned about the proposal to reopen schools for reception, year-one and year-six,” said Graham White, NEU spokesman for Suffolk.
“In an online discussion nationally by NAHT members, over 90% expressed strong reservations about reopening.
“In Suffolk, teachers will be very worried and I suspect angry about the proposal to reopen schools.
“Teachers are parents and carers and will be rightly concerned about their own safety and that of their family.
“Pupils and staff need safe secure working environments.”