Many Councils in England are questioning the Government’s direction that primary schools should re-open on 1 June as teacher and parent groups are finding the advice vague and confusing, while the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have adopted different approaches to sending children back to school, as have many private schools.
In York, The Chair of the Children, Education and Communities Scrutiny Committee, Green Party Councillor Dave Taylor, has now spoken out to urge the Council and schools in our city to be more cautious about accepting the Government’s advice. He says, “This is the biggest decision facing the city of York right now because it not only impacts on the education of our children and the mental health of young people, but it could, potentially, lead to fuelling of the epidemic if we were to get it wrong. We need greater scrutiny of the proposals that have been announced, and we need to involve opposition Councillors, teachers’ representatives, and parents’ groups before taking this step.”
Teaching unions have condemned the haste of the Government decision while the Government’s own plans for regular testing for children and staff are not yet in place. Councillor Taylor fears that without the safeguards of testing and isolating pupils who appear to have symptoms of the disease then children could become the unwitting carriers of a virus which could make their families seriously ill. He said, “People with asthma or diabetes are at risk of dying if they catch the coronavirus. It would be a huge burden for children to think that they may have passed on the virus to their parents or grandparents with such grave consequences.”
Councillor Taylor points out that although children are least affected by the coronavirus, a small number of those infected find themselves in intensive care with an inflammatory disease which may be related to their bodies fighting off the virus. “Medical science about this is still developing and it would be unwise to put children at risk of this new phenomenon – the fewer numbers of children gathered together the better until we know more.”
“Teachers are supporting pupils online and over the phone and cannot do this while also taking classes – they cannot do both at once. It just does not seem sensible to follow the national Government’s advice at a time when Yorkshire currently has the highest rate of transmission of the virus in the UK. Encouraging interaction and human contact which risks a second spike in deadly infections has got to be worse than delaying a return to school for the majority of children.”