Statement: No return to unsafe schools
Updated: Jun 14
Hertford and Stortford Labour Party are very concerned by the government's announcement that schools should begin re-opening from 1st June. Hundreds of thousands of parents have signed the national petition against having to send their children back to school prematurely.
Hertford and Stortford Labour do not believe it is right to take the risk of a second spike of COVID-19 infections which has already tragically claimed the lives of so many people in this country and the rest of the world.
Hertford and Stortford Labour agree with the NEU (National Education Union) and the five tests it has set out that need to be met for a safe return to school:
A much lower levels of infection cases,
A national plan for social distancing – without clear and unambiguous guidance to all schools, social distancing in the classroom and playground will be extremely difficult,
Comprehensive, regular testing for children and staff with a strategy for testing and tracing when a case occurs,
PPE for all staff
Protection for the vulnerable. Vulnerable staff, and staff who live with vulnerable people, will not be able to return to work in June; plans must be made to address the protection of vulnerable parents, grandparents and carers.
The government has so far failed on all these tests, but is still ploughing ahead with reopening schools, placing business interests before our children's lives. Only when these tests can be met will it safe for schools to reopen and only when it is safe should the government look to start the phased opening of schools.
Across the county we are seeing infection and tragic deaths, particularly amongst BAME people. To open schools at this time would be a reckless and dangerous move that would place our children in danger. Our children are not guinea pigs. There is emerging evidence about the impact of COVID-19 on children indicating that they are just as at risk of infection as adults.
Chris Vince, the Labour Candidate for Hertford and Stortford in the 2019 General Election, who is also a secondary school Maths teacher, said, “Like the majority of teachers, I want to see schools back open. However, not at the risk of the health of staff, students and their families. Social distancing is not going to be possible in school buildings which are already too small in many cases.
Instead of setting arbitrary dates like the first of June the Government needs to enter into meaningful dialogue with teaching unions, schools management and parents to ensure that their concerns are addressed (specifically the NEU’s 5 steps). They should also have some faith in educational professionals who are still working during this crisis, either remotely or by going into school for the children of key workers.
I do find it rather ironic that members of the press are claiming to be concerned about children’s education when they have said nothing about ten years of school budget cuts not to mention an ongoing crisis in teacher numbers. A few more weeks of remote learning isn’t going to do nearly as much damage as having, in some cases, a non-specialist supply teacher for over a year.”
Hertford and Stortford Labour know that children are missing school, their friends and their teachers and it is tough being at home, but keeping them safe and must be the priority and the government should not send them back into school until they know it is safe to do so.
All our teaching staff have played a vital role in tackling the current crisis. Many schools have remained open during lockdown for the children of key workers and the most vulnerable children in our community and all teachers have been adapting lessons to teach children on-line and monitor their progress via the internet.
Hertford and Stortford Labour call upon Hertfordshire County Council to stand firm against the premature easing of the lockdown and the Government's 1st June re-opening. There should be no return to school until it is safe.