schools chaos in UK, thanks to nazi boris & co

Union urges government to ‘draw back’ on school reopening, saying staff, pupils and families ‘deserve better’
The Canary, May 31 2020

The government has been urged to drop plans to reopen primary schools to pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 on Monday 1 June. Current plans could see all primary schools in England returning to normal before the summer holidays. Schools, colleges and nurseries closed more than nine weeks ago due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, remaining open only for vulnerable youngsters and the children of key workers. From Monday, class sizes will be limited to 15, with government guidance suggesting desks should be spaced further apart. However, unions have called for the government to “draw back” on the Jun 1 reopening. The National Education Union (NEU) said the contact tracing system must be running successfully before the risk level that comes with children and teachers returning to school can be mitigated. NEU general secretaries Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted said:

School leaders, their staff and pupils’ families deserve better than this. Even at this late stage, we call on the Government to draw back from wider opening of primary schools from Monday. Instead we urge Government to engage in talks with the profession and the unions, including the NEU, about how to open schools more widely once the contact tracing system is shown to be working.

Meanwhile, the National Governance Association chief executive Emma Knights has expressed concern about a return to normal before summer. According to the BBC, Knights has written to education secretary Gavin Williamson asking him to “review and drop” this expectation. She told the broadcaster:

Unless something dramatic changes very soon in terms of the Government’s scientific and medical advice, it will simply not be possible for primary schools to invite all pupils back for a whole month of education before the summer holidays. It is adding to uncertainty for parents, but also extra pressure on school leaders and governing boards who think that they need to try and do this when actually it wouldn’t be safe.

Williamson has written in the Sun that schools should commit to “welcoming more children back” as a number of councils in England have said they will keep them closed on Monday. He wrote:

Covid-19 has made it even more difficult for some children to get the most from their education and we cannot let the virus wreck the hopes and dreams of a generation.

Ministers have said their five key tests required for the easing of lockdown have been met. There are hopes all pupils will return to school four weeks before the summer break begins in July. Although schools standards minister Nick Gibb has said the final decision will be led by the science. A survey of local authorities by the Press Association found more than a dozen are advising schools not to open to more pupils from Jun 1.

Schools expect half of pupils will stay home as year groups return
Richard Adams, Groon, Jun 1 2020

A million children in England, half of those who are expected to return when their classes reopen, are likely to stay at home on Monday rather than go back to school, as many parents, councils and teachers remain sceptical of the government’s assurances over their safety. Boris Johnson’s government has invested considerable political capital in opening classrooms to primary school pupils in three year groups, reception, year 1 and year 6, leading to warnings by independent scientists that it is too soon to reopen while transmission and infection rates remain so high. While most of England’s 18k primary schools will open to more pupils from Monday, a large majority of headteachers say they are not able to accommodate all three year groups, in some cases for the remainder of the school year. According to a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research, primary school leaders expect that 47% of families will keep their children home, with the proportion rising to 50% among pupils eligible for free school meals. With more than 2 million children in England in reception, year 1 and year 6 classes, about 1 million are likely to stay at home when schools open to pupils other than those of key workers and those in care or having a social worker. In an effort to encourage parents to return their children to school, the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said:

While there might be some nervousness, I want to reassure parents and teachers that the welfare of children and staff continues to be the heart of all of our considerations.

Williamson said the government’s five tests for the safe lifting of the lockdown had been met, and claimed that it had “reviewed all the evidence” before reopening schools to more pupils. However, since the end of last week a number of leading scientists, including some who sit on the government’s advisory Sage panels, have said that it is too soon for the UK’s lockdown to be lifted because Covid-19 infection continues to spread in the community. Steve Reed, Labour’s shadow communities secretary, said:

All of us want to see schools open, but it has to be done in a gradual way that maintains parents’ confidence that it’s safe for their child to go back.

The NFER survey found that disadvantaged families and those living in the north of England were the most reluctant to return their children to school. Schools with high numbers of families eligible for free school meals expected 50% of pupils to stay away, compared with 42% in schools with the least disadvantaged children. Meanwhile, schools in the north-west of England expected half of their families to keep children at home, compared with 41% on average for schools in the south-west. Carole Willis, the NFER’s chief executive, said:

Schools with a high proportion of free school meal children were the most affected before lockdown and expect fewer children to return, adding to concerns about their loss of learning. There needs to be very clear messages and reassurance for parents, as well as a continued focus on the quality of remote learning.

The NFER’s findings backed up a new straw poll taken by the National Association of Head Teachers, which found that just 12% of school leaders said they would be able to accommodate all of the children allowed back on Monday. More than 10% of headteachers said they would not be able to reopen to more pupils either this week or next week, and the remaining 78% said they would only be able to take a smaller number of children, or would be rotating classes between different days. A number of councils remain opposed to the government’s Jun 1reopening, including some on the opposite ends of the political spectrum. Conservative-controlled Lancashire county council advised its schools not to reopen, saying:

The government’s test-and-trace programme is not at a state of readiness to respond to Covid-19 community setting outbreaks in a timely manner. Furthermore, we are not confident that adjustments to the current measures of the lockdown policy will not risk a second peak of infections locally.

Meanwhile, Brighton and Hove city council, which has more Green party than Conservative councillors, also advised its schools not to reopen for the same reasons. The Church of England’s Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham also made a late decision not to reopen its 65 primary schools on the grounds of safety concerns raised by staff unions. Nigel Frith, the diocesean director of education, wrote to parents:

While we very much want as many children in school as possible, it’s so important to do this the right way.

The decision was attacked by Ben Bradley, the Tory MP for Mansfield, who accused the diocese of “bowing to union pressure.” Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, provided little reassurance at Sunday’s afternoon press conference to parents when she dismissed the chances of public playgrounds reopening. Harries said park playgrounds remained risky because of the danger of transmission when children from “multiple households” meet. she said:

It’s not a good place to be at the moment, so I think not in the immediate future.

The wider opening only applies to schools in England. Schools in Wales will not reopen on Monday but Kirsty Williams, the Welsh education minister, is to make a further announcement this week. Schools in Northern Ireland and Scotland will not widely reopen until the end of the summer holidays, although in Scotland preschool children in nursery classes and pupils in P7, the final year of primary school, could return on Jun 15 in some areas.

Health officials make last-minute plea to stop lockdown easing in England
Robert Booth, Helen Pidd, Peter Walker, Groon, May 31 2020

Senior public health officials have made a last-minute plea for ministers to scrap Monday’s easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England, warning the country is unprepared to deal with any surge in infection and that public resolve to take steps to limit transmisson has been eroded. The Association of Directors of Public Health said:

The new rules are not supported by the science. The public is not keeping to social distancing as it was.

On Saturday and Sunday, there were pictures of crowded beaches and beauty spots. Seafronts were packed as people anticipated the lifting of restrictions on what has been dubbed “happy Monday.” Car showrooms and outdoor markets will also be reopened, millions of children will return to primary schools and the most vulnerable “shielded” people will be allowed out for the first time since lockdown began in March, all as long as physical distancing is maintained. But Jeanelle de Gruchy, president of the ADPH, said:

My colleagues across England are increasingly concerned that the government is misjudging the balance of risk between more social interaction and the risk of a resurgence of the virus, and is easing too many restrictions too quickly. We have called on ministers to postpone the easing of restrictions until more is known about the infection rate, the test-and-trace system is better established, and public resolve to maintain physical distancing and hygiene can be reinforced. We have not spoken out in this way before, but we are concerned that if there is a spike it will be in our communities. We need to be confident we can get on top of it, and we are not confident yet.

The beach at the Durdle Door beauty spot in Dorset remained closed on Sunday after people crowded there on Saturday and air ambulances were forced to land on the sand after three people were injured while jumping off the rocks. Wildfires also broke out across the north of England as firefighters blamed the easing of lockdown for the number of people having illegal barbecues on the moors. In Derbyshire, police towed cars blocking lanes near a notoriously toxic lake which they dyed black in order to deter swimmers earlier in the lockdown. Hoffman Quarry and the surrounding area was “like Skegness in peak summer,” said the local police. Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, admitted:

Room for manoeuvre is quite limited. We are reasonably confident.

Earlier, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, described it as “a delicate and dangerous moment”. He said if infections surged, the government could impose geographically targeted measures such as locking down specific cities. Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, also stressed the rate of the rise in the death toll, which climbed by 113 to 38,489 on Sunday was only falling “very gently.” She said:

The public really, really need to stick to the message. As we move forward with the easing of our lockdown restrictions, we encourage people to maintain all focus on maintaining social distancing.

The public health directors, who work for local authorities, said they had realised in recent days that the government’s test-and-trace system was not yet robust enough to quash any resurgence in the virus and warned that the R infection number, estimated at between 0.7 and 0.9, was too close to 1, above which the infection is growing. They also said that the lockdown must remain in place until “relentless efforts are made to regain and rebuild public confidence and trust following recent events,” an apparent reference to the Dominic Cummings affair. In Scotland, which is exiting lockdown more slowly, Nicola Sturgeon warned of a significant risk coronavirus could “run out of control again.” Prof Devi Sridhar of Edinburgh University, a member of the Scottish government’s Covid-19 advisory group, said:

I’m afraid a rise in coronavirus numbers in England is inevitable. The only thing that might save England is the good weather, and the warmth if this virus does indeed die outside quite quickly. But it is incredibly worrying, because the numbers are not low enough to have a test-and-trace system take over.

Nurses also called for caution. Dame Donna Kinnair, the chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said:

Staff are anxious that easing lockdown could undo the progress we’ve made as a country in combatting this virus. People must continue to act sensibly and think of the nurses they’ve applauded before they do anything that could jeopardise their health and the health of others.

Sally Bloomfield, an honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also warned:

Our desire to socialise means that the critical nature of our situation is being forgotten. Why introduce all of these measures at the same time, which means that if the situation deteriorates it will be impossible to know which measures need to be reimposed, and we will just have to go back to lockdown? This does not look like gently lifting the lid. In reality, the option to meet with non-household members in private gardens is only a small extension of meeting in public parks, but my fear is that it is not being seen this way.

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