With schools across the country due to begin re-opening on June 1st, the Labour Group in City of York Council have urged the administration to give clear public health guidance to schools and parents. Such guidance is necessary to inform any timetable on re-opening primary schools, with school leaders and governors needing to be more informed on the science behind schools re-opening.
School governing bodies need to clearly understand the risks involved with opening at different stages, whether it be 1st June, or in the weeks subsequent as the Government pushes for full attendance in primary schools a month before school summer holidays start on 24th July.
“It’s clear that some of the Government’s tests still haven’t been met,” said Councillor Danny Myers, leader of the Labour Group, “particularly tests four and five on PPE availability and testing, and a second peak not overwhelming the NHS. Until the testing regime and contact tracing system is effective and widespread, then easing the lockdown will risk a second spike. And on PPE, we know this has been a problem since day one and continues to be so.
“Without those five tests met, it is incumbent on the local council to look at the local rate of infection data, and the other measures in place locally, such as on testing, to advise schools on the safety of a partial re-opening. We don’t think we’re at a safe point for pupils, their families and teachers, for primary schools to take up to half their pupils back on 1st June.
“A one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work for schools across the country. School Leaders and Governors are being asked to make very difficult decisions about whether to open schools whilst parents and carers are also having to make difficult decisions regarding their child’s attendance at school.
“We have asked the council’s Director of Public Health what is predicted to happen to the rate of infection if primary schools re-open on 1st June, and this is something Heads and Governors require too before they make a final decision. If the council doesn’t have that data, then it should be pushing the Government to provide it urgently”.
Schools are currently undertaking risk assessments but it is unclear if there will be a consistent approach adopted and if such assessments will be shared with parents and carers of pupils being expected to return.
Councillor Bob Webb, Labour’s spokesperson for education and children’s services, said that a shared approach to undertaking risk assessments could increase public confidence in any re-openings, whenever they take place.
“We know there is anxiety amongst parents and carers at the moment which is quite understandable. All schools are different, and some have far more space in which to adapt how they work than others, but a common approach to pupil and teacher safety is paramount.
“Schools received a public health briefing on Wednesday and I hope that enables them to explain which conditions need to be met for them to open further, and how those decisions will be taken. We’re now only just over a week away from 1st June so we need to know when a final local decision will be taken to move forward with plans to open further, and what factors in the meantime could influence any change to such a decision.
“Based on all the facts we have, we remain unconvinced that the 1st June date is safe or achievable for all York schools, and would urge the council and the Government not to push York schools into meeting this target date”.