The Isle of Wight NEU’s Peter Shreeve has accused the government of ‘failing to learn lessons’, after the Prime Minister announced that schools will fully reopen from March 8.
The move is part of a four-step roadmap to leave lockdown, but it only applies to English schools.
According to a member of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), sending all children of all age groups back to school on March 8 is likely to increase the Covid R rate to ‘around 1’.
Professor John Edmunds told BBC’s Andrew Marr that it might be safer to send children back to school in gradual phases, rather than all at once.
The government says getting children back to school is a priority, for the mental and physical wellbeing, as well as for their education.
In England, schools have remained open to vulnerable children and those of keyworkers throughout the third lockdown.
What are other parts of the UK doing?
- In Wales, some younger children have now returned first, with more after March 15, and older children likely to head back to class after Easter.
- In Scotland, young children are now back in school, but a date has yet to be confirmed for the return of others.
- In Northern Ireland, only the youngest will go back to class, on March 8.
SAGE’s Professor Edmunds also said that everyone, including children, needs to be vaccinated to prevent a “significant risk of a resurgence” of Covid-19.
On the Isle of Wight, Peter Shreeve, Assistant District Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Despite all his words of caution, the Prime Minister has failed to learn the lessons of his previous mistakes.
“Infections are falling, along with hospitalisation rates, which is perhaps why the Prime Minster explained his roadmap was “cautious, but irreversible”.
“Failed to learn the lessons” – Peter Shreeve, NEU
“Cases are still three times higher now than when schools re-opened last September.
“This surely should have induced greater caution rather than an ‘ambitious’ school return, which runs the risk of schools again becoming “vectors of transmission”.
Speaking before the full reopening of schools was confirmed, Director of Public Health, Simon Bryant, told the County Press: “Schools are a common setting. They are not where it’s spreading.
“As we use community testing and test people more we’ll find it. People will isolate more and we’ll start to see the spread come down.
“We did really well September through to December, before schools were closed.
“At times we did have a number of schools with bubbles closing, but when we looked at it, with all the safety measures they put in place, all the social distancing, the number of pupils having to isolate anyone time is less than is perceived.
“Children at school is really good for their health, not just their Covid health.
“We know that they’re not badly impacted by Covid, in terms of seriuous illness.”
IW director of public health, Simon Bryant
Isle of Wight Council Leader Dave Stewart said: “The fact is we follow the government guidance on this.
“We’ve got an extremely good director of schools, Steve Crocker.
“Cllr Paul Brading, our cabinet member, is right on top of this. I think they’re keen to see schools open as soon, as safely, as possible.
“Head teachers all over the Island of working super hard to get these places safe as they can. I know they came to have kids back at school.”
Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely, meanwhile, is a member of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), which had previously opposed the second lockdown.
Before yesterday’s announcement, it had called for the government to commit to a return to school date and to ease Covid-19 restrictions as soon as possible.When they return to class, children in secondary schools will be advised to wear masks in areas where socialy distancing is not possible, including classrooms.
Mr Seely told the County Press: “If the Government is going to try to eliminate Covid, that demands one set of policies. If the government is saying we have to live with Covid in a less dangerous form, that is another conversation entirely.
“What is not acceptable is keeping a society in lockdown without a clear reasoning.
“Once death and hospitalisations are largely avoided, we need to get human life back to some kind of new normal, albeit with sensible precautions.”
When the return, secondary children will be tested (voluntarily) twice-weekly and will be advised to wear masks, including in corridors, if social distancing cannot be managed.
Peter Shreeve said that move was welcome, but on its own, was not enough.
He called for plans to be out in place to protect vulnerable and older education staff.