nazi britain

UK excluding Huawei from 5G network
Thomas Scripps, WSWS, Jul 16 2020

The UK government has banned mobile providers from purchasing new 5G equipment from Chinese company Huawei after Dec 31. Existing Huawei equipment must be removed by 2027. The announcement is a major reversal of Britain’s decision just six months ago to allow the company to provide up to 35% of the kit in the UK’s 5G network periphery. It follows a concerted international campaign waged by Pindostan to pressure its vassals into refusing any Huawei involvement in the development of new telecoms infrastructure. Trump reportedly subjected Johnson to an “apoplectic” phone call after he informed him of the UK’s initial decision. A few days later, Pompeo held a two-day meeting with Johnson and Raab. A series of veiled threats were made to cancel or restrict Pindo intelligence-sharing with the UK security services, and to put the brakes on a post-Brexit trade deal. The final push came with the implementation of sanctions barring the use of Pindo-patented technology in Huawei equipment, forcing Britain to use other suppliers if it continued to work with the Chinese company. Trump was quick to boast of his administration’s responsibility for the UK’s volte face, responding to the announcement in a White House press conference:

We convinced many countries, many countries, not to use Huawei because we think it’s an unsafe security risk, it’s a big security risk. I did this myself for the most part. If they want to do business with us, they can’t use it.

This left UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock to make a pathetic denial in an interview with Sky News, saying Trump was wrong to “claim credit” for the move. He said:

We all know Donald Trump don’t we. But I think this is a sensible decision. All sorts of people can try to claim credit for the decision, but this was based on a technical assessment by the National Cyber Security Centre about how we can have the highest quality 5G systems in the future.

In reality, Britain’s ban on Huawei marks another lurch towards the trade and military war camp of Pindo imperialism, aggressively advocated by a group of Tory hardliners. It will have major political and economic repercussions. Speaking for the concerns of large sections of the British ruling class, the Financial Times drew attention to the shift from the so-called “golden decade” of Anglo-Chinese relations begun by Cameron, to the “deep freeze” of today. While it endorses the government’s decision, based on “the changed security assessment and commercial constraints,” the paper’s editorial warned that it would come with “substantial cost.” The FT wrote:

In the immediate term, it could delay the rollout of 5G networks in Britain by two years, as well as add up to £2bn to its cost. Operators may well demand compensation.

Shutting the door on Huawei threatens to provoke economic reprisals. Economic ties between China and the UK have grown substantially in recent years, with China investing $79.5b between 2010 and 2019, twice as much as in the next European recipient, and Britain’s exports to China tripling between 2008 and 2018. The Global Times responded to the ban on Huawei with an editorial stating:

It is necessary for China to retaliate against the UK otherwise, would we not be seen as easy to bully? Such retaliation should be public and painful for the UK.

Zhao Lijian, foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing, said:

It’s a litmus test for the direction where the UK market would go after Brexit, and whether the UK businesses in China will be provided with an open, fair and non-discriminate environment.

The FT cautions:

As the world fractures, and Britain charts its own course after Brexit, it would be damaging to be drawn into Trump’s new cold war with China. Realistic, constructive engagement with Beijing is the priority.

It quotes former Labour government cabinet member and now head of the Great Britain-China Centre, Peter Mandelson, saying:

If we are going to cut ourselves off from our privileged access to the European market and if we recognise that the Pindo economy operates in quite a protectionist way, are we going also to isolate ourselves from China, the biggest source of growth in the world? Where are we going to make a living?

But these are little more than words on a page. Political power is in the hands of hardline Brexiteers, seeking to use the UK’s break with the EU to secure a closer economic and geostrategic alignment with Pindo imperialism. Johnson may yet face a rebellion of up to 60 Tory MPs, led by former Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith, demanding even faster and more extensive moves against Huawei. Smith asked in the House of Commons why its removal from the 5G network could not be accomplished by 2025, adding:

If they’re a risk to us in 5G, why are they not a risk to us generally?

Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy applauded the government’s “welcome, long-overdue step.” With these forces dominant in the Tory party and the Labour Party in a catatonic state, sections of the ruling class in favour of a balancing act between Pindostan and China based on Europe are left writing ineffectual press commentaries as a Pindo-led war drive proceeds. The same day the new decision on Huawei was announced, military chiefs revealed the UK’s new £3b aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, would be making its maiden voyage to the Far East next year. According to the Times, the carrier will lead a strike group including four frigates, 24 F-35 jets, and a nuclear submarine. It will participate in Pindo-Japanese military exercises in the region to “counter the emerging threat of China,” according to one government source. This all takes place just one month after the British government used Beijing’s crackdown on protests in HK and the imposition of an authoritarian National Security Law, as a platform to support Faschingstein’s economic assault on China via sanctions on the Chinese-controlled territory. In this case too, the UK is acting against the interests of many major British companies, more than 300 of which have regional headquarters or offices serving HK’s domestic market and the region. These actions have a relentless logic. British imperialism is in a state of immense crisis following the Brexit vote of 2016, due to be enacted at the end of this year. That the government is prepared to sacrifice the UK’s short and medium-term economic interests in its recent dealings with China is an indication of how closely it perceives the solution of that crisis to be tied to the fate of Pindostan. The ban on Huawei demonstrates its strengthening commitment to a Faschingstein-led reshaping of the world economy through protectionism and military aggression.

Quarter of a million threatened with homelessness by UK government’s lifting of evictions ban
Dennis Moore, WSWS, Jul 16 2020

Research from homelessness charity Shelter estimates that nearly 230k tenants across England have fallen behind with rent payments since the start of the pandemic and are at risk of losing their homes. The research was based on a poll of 1,058 private tenants carried out by YouGov on behalf of Shelter in England between Jun 4-11. Of the 8.7m tenants who rent their homes from private, council or housing association landlords, including 3m households with children, it is estimated there are 442k tenants in rent arrears, twice as high as in the same period last year. 174k tenants have already been threatened with eviction by their landlords or letting agents. As the pandemic took hold in Britain, the Conservative government imposed a ban on evictions for three months, ending Aug 23. Following public complaints that this was not enough to protect renters, the courts were forced to suspend possession hearings for 90 days, meaning no evictions could legally complete until this is lifted. However, landlords were not prevented from still being able to serve eviction notices, with many fearing that when the ban on evictions ends, there will be a surge in eviction cases and homelessness. To prevent the deadline from ending, emergency legislation would have had to be passed by Jul 16. Responding to a series of parliamentary questions, ‘Lord’ Greenhalgh, a minister at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local government ruthlessly declared:

From Aug 24 the courts will begin to process possession proceedings cases again. This will be an important step towards ending the lockdown and will protect landlords’ important right to regain their property.

Many renters are in a vulnerable position under the present court system because they can be evicted automatically when they accrue eight weeks rent arrears, and also face section 21 “no-fault” evictions that give little option in the courts but to evict. Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 enabled private landlords to give prospective tenants the right only to short-term tenancies of between six and 12 months. Tenants could be asked to vacate tenancies, and the landlord would not have to give a reason why, as long as the correct notice period was served, a no-fault eviction. Prior to the pandemic, the Conservatives pledged to “good landlords” in their election manifesto last December that “we will strengthen your rights of possession.” The Independent noted at the time:

It is unclear exactly what is intended, but a previous consultation proposed allowing new fixed contracts, of unknown length, rather than simply ‘assured tenancies’ with no time limit. They would be introduced by strengthening section 8 of the existing 1988 Housing Act, if section 21 of the same legislation is scrapped, to end ‘no fault’ evictions carried out with no reason given.

With the ban on evictions being lifted, the 230k already in rent arrears could face automatically being evicted from their homes if they are eight weeks behind with their rent. Shelter’s CEO, Polly Neate, said:

We know people have been doing whatever they can to pay their rent and keep their home safe. Despite this, the minute the eviction ban lifts, the 230k already behind with their rent could be up for automatic eviction if they’ve built up eight weeks’ worth of arrears.

The Generation Rent organisation believes that 45k people are at serious risk of homelessness this autumn. The winding down of the government’s furlough scheme, ahead of its termination at the end of October, will lead to mass unemployment, pushing millions into financial ruin, unable to pay their rent and losing their homes. Around 11m workers and the self-employed have had 80% of their wages paid by the state under the furlough scheme. Since the imposition of lockdown in March, Shelter have seen an increase in calls for assistance, with a quarter of all calls from private renters worried about losing their homes. The possibility that thousands of people, after losing their homes, could present themselves as homeless at local authority homelessness departments is a perfect storm. Many local authorities are already overstretched and have little capacity to meet a sudden surge in homelessness presentations. The last decade saw a substantial growth in the private rented sector across England. Between 2010-11 and 2017-18, the number of private renting households rose from 3.6m to 4.5m, accounting for the second largest tenure in England. In 2017-18, of all households in the private rented sector, 35% included dependent children.

Recent research from payment technology firm Flatfair and real estate investor Rowan Asset Management points to a significant number of younger people being heavily exposed to falling into financial distress due to this crisis. One in two renters with residential landlords are aged 16-34, and a high proportion of these workers work in retail or the gig economy. Nearly half of all UK retail workers (2.8m) are aged 16-34, with a quarter aged 25–34. Restaurant workers are more likely to be younger, with 60% aged 16-34. The impact of the exposure of these workers to job insecurity and a loss or reduction in income puts them at risk of losing accommodation. Research from the Resolution Foundation found that many young people are earning less than they were before the COVID-19 crisis, with a third of 18-24-year olds (excluding students) being furloughed or losing their jobs. This compares to one in six of prime-age adults. Franz Doerr, CEO and founder of Flatfair, said:

As more firms start to furlough staff and others cease due to the economic impact of the virus, swathes of young renters up and down the country will see incomes plummet and may not be able to pay their rent. Rising rent arrears are likely to mount over the year as a consequence.

Vast numbers of people struggle to pay their rent already. According to an English Housing Survey covering 2018/19, more than 1m (28%) of private renters find it difficult to pay rent. Nearly two-thirds (61%) reported having no savings at all. Among social renters, the proportion without savings is even higher at 82%. Private renting households, noted Shelter, spent 33% of their household income on rent on average and for people aged between 16 and 24, this increased to 47%. The policies of the Johnson Tory government during the pandemic, aimed solely at the bail-out of big business, are leading to mass unemployment and enormous financial insecurity for millions. There is no sign that even with workers being told to get back to work this will offset the enormous economic damage that has taken place, with many livelihoods threatened by mass job losses reported on a weekly basis. While the government attempted to stimulate the housing market, with exemptions on having to pay stamp duty on properties up to the value of £500k, hundreds of thousands face being made homeless. The response of the Labour Party to the evictions crisis amounted to nothing more than Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire issuing a five-point plan calling for an “extension to the ban on evictions to allow further protections to be introduced” and for a two-year period for tenants to pay back any arrears accrued during the pandemic.

Transport for London downplayed COVID-19 dangers to bus, rail and tube workers in critical early months
Laura Tiernan, WSWS, Jul 16 2020

Transport for London deliberately minimised the COVID-19 threat to bus and transport workers during January and February this year, even as the WHO instructed countries to take urgent action. New documents reveal that TfL focused on operational efficiency at the expense of workers’ lives, with TfL bosses, including Chief Safety, Health and Environment Officer Lilli Matson, insisting the COVID-19 risk to bus, rail and tube workers was “low” and that gloves and facemasks should not be worn. London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan released a 19-page batch of internal TfL memos last week, after a request from Conservative Member of the London Assembly Keith Prince. The documents exclude any communication between TfL, Khan, and government ministers, but they expose criminal neglect of workplace health and safety. They show how the Johnson government’s homicidal herd immunity strategy resulted in a catastrophic spread of COVID-19 among transport workers in London that would ultimately claim 44 lives, including those of 29 bus drivers. Between Jan 23 and Feb 28, TfL internal directives about managing coronavirus included:

  • Despite some sensational headlines, there is no cause for alarm. (Bulletin to Operational Managers, Jan 23)
  • We are confident that our colleagues are at low risk at work, including those in customer-facing roles. (Bulletin to London Underground Area Managers, Train Operations Managers and equivalents in R&E and Assets, and Bulletin to all Operational Line Managers Surface Transport, Feb 14 2020)
  • We must emphasise that the risk to individuals in the UK remains low. (Letter to all 300 TfL leaders from Lilli Matson Chief Safety, Health and Environment Officer, Feb 27 2020)
  • We are not providing masks or encouraging colleagues to wear them as they are a poor form of protection against viruses including coronavirus. (Bulletin to all Operational Line Managers, Surface Transport, Feb 14 2020)
  • [Masks] make our network appear an unnecessarily risky environment which could result in undue fear and panic.
  • Avoid local PA announcements on trains or stations in relation to coronavirus at this stage.

All the documents released by Khan cite the authority of Public Health England, with the desired implication that TfL and the Mayor of London were only following orders. In reality, all of these “stakeholders” shared the same objective: protecting profits not lives. TfL directives included statements such as:

Public Health England doesn’t advise the use of masks or gloves as protection from coronavirus.

And:

We have based our plans around advice from the experts: Public Health England and our Occupational Health colleagues. They currently assess the risk to individuals in the UK as low.

Lilli Matson is presumably one of TfL’s “Occupational Health colleagues,” appointed Chief Safety, Health and Environment Officer in Sep 2019 despite having no health and safety qualifications. PHE is not a neutral health body. An executive agency established by the Tories in 2013 under the Health and Social Care Act (2012), its Chief Executive Duncan Selbie has no public health expertise (in 2013 he joked to the Lancet:

You can fit my public health credentials on a postage stamp!

PHE’s craven defence of the government was underscored in March when it downgraded COVID-19 from a “high consequence infectious disease” so that PPE requirements for health workers could be eviscerated. More than 500 health-care workers have since died. Advice from PHE and TfL that coronavirus posed a “low risk” contradicted warnings from WHO and from leading epidemiologists. On Jan 30, WHO declared an international health emergency, calling for immediate action by governments:

It is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.

Six days earlier, scientists warned the UK government’s emergency COBRA committee that COVID-19 might cause “mass casualties” while epidemiologists told the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on Jan 22 that the virus had a potential reproduction rate above 3.0, higher than the Spanish Flu which caused 50m deaths between 1918 and 1920. Epidemiologists from Imperial College London urged lockdown measures to halt a potentially catastrophic loss of life. But scientists’ warnings were suppressed or swept aside. In late February, as COVID-19 overwhelmed health systems in Italy and Spain, provoking growing public concern, Johnson cited PHE guidance to justify inaction on social distancing, testing and contact-tracing. For TfL, Khan and the private transport companies too, it was business as usual. One incident providing an early warning of the role TfL and the bus companies would play in spreading COVID-19 was the UK Bus Summit held on Feb 6. Despite calls by WHO for social distancing, the conference went ahead at the QEII Centre in London, bringing together 250+ delegates, including TfL and bus company executives and MPs. ‘Baroness’ Vere, Minister with Responsibility for Buses, delivered the keynote address. David Brown, Chief Executive of Go-Ahead; Mark Threapleton, Chief Operations Officer, Stagecoach; and Gareth Powell, Managing Director of Surface Transport, TfL, also spoke. Seven days later, conference organiser Transport Times emailed delegates informing them that a fellow-attendee had been diagnosed with COVID-19. According to a BBC report on Feb 14:

The email included advice from PHE urging delegates that no action was needed if they felt well.

There is no mention of the London Bus Conference in the internal TfL memos released by Khan. Did PHE officials carry out contact tracing after the bus conference? If not, there is every possibility that attendees, including TfL and bus industry executives and MPs, passed the virus to others. At least one employee from TfL head office was later reported to have died from coronavirus, although no further details have been provided by TfL. At the end of February, a Nike conference held in Edinburgh became a super-spreader event infecting 25 people. Tom Kearney, a prominent bus safety campaigner told WSWS:

The COVID-19 outbreak at the UK Bus Summit was an alarming indicator that TfL’s bus contractor employees were probably already infected. The fact that there is no mention of that outbreak in any TfL internal communication in February suggests to me that an important opportunity to prevent the deaths of 33 London bus workers was lost.

Even before the pandemic, TfL’s surface transport system was being described by a former board member as “institutionally unsafe.” By Feb 2019, 1,062 people had been killed or seriously injured in TfL bus collisions over the preceding five years. A study by Loughborough University in 2019 found that 36% of London bus drivers had a “close call” due to tiredness in the previous 12 months. By February this year, bus drivers were at breaking point. Anger over punishing shifts, cuts to break times, and poor pay forced the UNITE union to call a London-wide “consultative” strike ballot. More than 97% of members voted for strike action, but UNITE refused to organise a follow-up ballot, and, as the pandemic took hold, it signed a Tripartite Agreement with TfL pledging to deliver “industrial harmony.” Workers were left defenceless in the face of the pandemic. The documents released by Khan show that TfL’s Head of Network Delivery Richard Jones advised managers to downplay the threat level to TfL’s workforce. On Feb 14, he directed them to discourage masks, saying:

They make our network appear an unnecessarily risky environment.

He instructed them:

Avoid local PA announcements on trains or stations in relation to coronavirus at this stage.

Instead, “front-line leaders” were told:

Reassure colleagues. This will be a big support in making our people feel safe at work and will help us continue to run a good service for Londoners.

From late February, TfL’s memos focused on curbing absenteeism. On Feb 27, Matson sent an email to all 300 TfL managers stating:

In essence, there is no change to the way we should be managing absence. Managers should continue to follow the usual absence policy for managing colleagues not at work due to reasons linked to coronavirus.

Managers were directed to contact ill workers “by phone.” If absenteeism due to COVID-19 was “affecting resourcing levels,” Matson instructed:

Contact your manager in the first instance, who can escalate where required.

Throughout April and May, sick drivers told WSWS they were being harassed to return to work. TfL’s memos prove this was policy. Khan’s much publicised “bus bonus retention scheme” announced on Feb 14 must be seen in this context. Drivers would receive a £1l bonus after two years on the job, and another £600 if they stayed for three years. Khan hoped the measure would avert a crippling staff shortage during the pandemic. In retrospect, one driver calls it “blood money.” The driver told WSWS:

Their whole approach was criminal neglect. Reading these documents, they are saying ‘no face masks, no gloves, no safety announcements.’ It’s complete disregard for life.

To this day, TfL and Khan have refused requests, including under Freedom of Information, to disclose the date and work location of COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalisations. Clusters of infection, including at Cricklewood, Holloway and Westbourne Park garages, were only discovered later, after drivers and bus safety campaigners began piecing together scattered press coverage. Kearney says he is not surprised by TfL’s ongoing cover-up.

In my opinion, TfL’s obstruction of public scrutiny is a deliberate attempt to hide the poor working conditions and safety practices which underpin these services’ highly-regarded timeliness and availability. I’d have thought intentionally running a public surface transport system that kills and injures (a) for the convenience of its passengers and (b) the profitability of its contractors, would qualify as a textbook case of corporate manslaughter.

UNITE joined with Khan, TfL, and the bus companies to insist that PPE was not required and took no steps to investigate workplace infections and deaths, stating that it was not their responsibility. As the Johnson government reopened the economy, the unions were again on board, pushing a return to normal rosters based on lying claims that drivers’ safety would be protected. The reality is that drivers are back on crowded buses, left to fend for themselves. UNITE and TfL both claimed that safety screens installed in drivers’ cabins had been designed by experts at University College London, but a UCL spokesperson told the WSWS:

The screens were not designed by UCL. The role of UCL researchers was to simulate and quantify airflow and droplet concentrations into and out of the driver’s cabin under various scenarios.

Neither UCL nor TfL have been willing to provide any further information. To prevent a new wave of infections, bus and transport workers must take the fight against the pandemic out of the hands of the Johnson government, TfL, Mayor Sadiq Khan and the transport unions. Rank-and-file safety committees should be elected at every bus garage and rail depot, led by trusted workers, to introduce necessary safety measures to save lives. The resources to pay for proper safety, decent wages and income protection for sick and shielding workers must be freed through the expropriation of the major transport companies under workers’ control, as part of the fight for socialism.

Teachers, educators and parents speak out against UK September school reopening
WSWS, Jul 16 2020

Teachers, educators and parents spoke to the WSWS in opposition to the Johnson government’s plan to fully reopen schools in September despite the heightened risks from COVID-19 transmission. Sam and Jane are two teachers from Yorkshire. Sam, who works in a school in Sheffield, said:

Throughout the pandemic the government has been very keen on publishing guidance that does not seem fit for purpose. This has been highlighted in their need to amend guidance sometimes thrice daily, making it hard to keep up and implement. September opening guidance is no different. There is little evidence to suggest science is underpinning or supporting these guidelines, so I oppose the reopening. Staff feel very scared and uncared about. Some feel their lives and wellbeing is being sacrificed for the economy. Staff have been working hard and creatively to maintain and deliver an inclusive curriculum for all children during lockdown. This has seen most staff work since February without a break. Many feel unsupported, as school staff have regularly been vilified in the press for raising concerns about the health and safety in schools during COVID, even though this was in response to following the government’s own health and safety advice. Many have significant underlying health issues that put them at risk yet are not even going to be given basic PPE. A high percentage of staff are BAME and the science around COVID and the risks to BAME groups remains unclear. Proposals such as all children to sit facing forward two metres apart from school adults is undoable in small classrooms with large class sizes.

It is also a big ask for the younger children to keep their distance from staff, and those that work with small children know it is impossible to strictly monitor hygiene. Because of this, children are spreaders. The requirement is going to be that clinically vulnerable staff or those living with clinically vulnerable relatives are going to be in school for six-and-a-half to seven hours a day, with no PPE and with no social distancing. This does not follow other workplace guidelines such as offices, where social distancing/perspex screens, etc., has to be strictly adhered to. The idea of ‘bubbles’ does little to reassure either. Yes, it keeps a group together in school, but it does not take account of what happens outside of it. Most of our school’s cohort are from the BAME communities. Parents have on the whole been very fearful. When school recently widened its opening beyond the vulnerable and key worker children, there wasn’t much uptake, with parents preferring to keep their children at home. A lot of our children live with extended family members, some of them elderly, or with health problems. In September, the choice for parents is removed with parents facing fines of up to £120 if they do not send their children to school. In contrast with the ‘softly, softly’ approach taken during full lockdown the message will be ‘education is not optional.’

Some communities have suffered many bereavements due to COVID and we know some children have high anxieties around this. Many children and families see the school as the hub of the community and without access for such a long period have felt isolated. For our vulnerable groups school represents stability and many have still attended, but the sterile measures in place have made it difficult to reach these children and they have struggled without their friendship groups and the social norms usually found at school. But staff also want the whole school community to be safe. Despite wanting normality, staff acknowledge that cannot come at a cost. Staff do not think the government is keeping the school community safe and therefore oppose reopening. The National Education Union supporting the September return is very disappointing. School staff are in a worse position now than they were. The five tests set out by the NEU around school safety have not been met, yet they are not opposing. I agree with the SEP proposals that schools should not be opened until safe. As the government has shown a disregard for both school staff safety and the school community, I am in favour of the workforce deciding on the terms and conditions in which schools reopen.

Jane has worked in two education authorities across West and South Yorkshire over the past 40 years. Asked about the government plans for September, she said:

I feel unsure about it. They are now talking about 30 children in a class. The children want to go back. But this makes the adults uneasy, both staff and parents. In our area there are a lot of COVID-19 hotspots. I think that a full reopening is unrealistic. There will be a lot of anxious staff. It’s been shown that children can’t socially distance really. There is a great risk of them transmitting the virus back to their families. I think the unions should fight for us. They are only in jobs because of us. Everyone wants to go back, but only when it’s safe. As we go, there is more and more found out about the virus. We should listen to the health experts because the government has got another agenda. Health should come before anything else.

Helen, a teacher from Lincolnshire, said:

I am clinically vulnerable, and this is a massive worry for me going back to school. In my school, all year groups are returning as usual with zoning in place for different year groups in bubbles of hundreds of children. Staff are really concerned about their safety. I am really disappointed with the education unions. They are not fighting for our rights. I agree with what the SEP is proposing: the setting up of rank-and-file safety committees in schools are necessary to support families and working-class communities. We need to be safe.

Lara, a teacher from the East Midlands, said:

It feels like we’re being thrown to the wolves. I am very worried for older members of staff. Rules which we have been told need to apply in public spaces (social distancing, mask wearing) aren’t being applied in schools, and this isn’t following scientific advice. We are reopening to all students, and staff are very nervous about going back into that environment. The unions need to do more to protect teachers who, come September, are going to be the most exposed section of society, teaching in cramped classrooms with no protection. I fully agree that there needs to be safety committees set up to support teachers and parents.

Chelsea, a teacher, said:

I am concerned it’s too early, but look forward to seeing the pupils. I’m worried for my health and the health of my family. Our school is reopening to all pupils in September with year group bubbles and I am concerned that the safety guidelines are not going to keep people safe. The unions haven’t stood up. I’m worried that my life and the lives of the students I teach are being put in danger without the government fully thinking of the implications.

Steve, a teacher from Essex, said:

It’s really worrying. Something needs to be done to change this. There are too many children returning at one time. The unions need to be on our side, but they have gone quiet since the government announced their plans for September. I think schools should only be open when safe and should do blended learning and small bubbles until the science shows that it is completely safe to return.

Hayley, a parent from Cambridgeshire, said:

I think that schools are doing their best without guidance from the government. The government has been inconsistent and sloppy. I feel that staff should be able to wear masks. Social distancing is hard for children, but it is about managing risks. I feel that schools should revert to online teaching if there is another Covid-19 outbreak. My children’s school is fully opening in September and we are expecting staggered start/end times and classes to be kept separate. I think it is fair to expect proper funding of all public services. It is clear this hasn’t been happening.

Kez, a teaching assistant from Cambridgeshire, said:

It’s a complete joke. We all want kids back in school but teachers and teaching assistants are not being protected. My school is full steam ahead with reopening. We’re expected to just put up and shut up. We’re just cannon fodder. This is a policy about economics, not safety. Closing schools is inconvenient to parents, who struggle to work if their kids are off. It disproportionately affects lower income families. The staff I have spoken to are nervous, but happy to be teaching the kids again. The parents’ views I have come across are mixed.

Carol, a primary school teacher, said:

I was in horror at the government’s plans for large ‘bubbles’ in schools and lack of distancing and masks. It is insane that there will be no social distancing in schools, no personal protection for children or staff, and no school closures if children or staff record positively for COVID-19. I am disappointed with the NEU. Their refusal to fight despite massive opposition among teachers to the reopening of schools has led to the government’s plans going ahead.

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