Yesterday, Brighton and Hove Council announced that their advice to schools and nurseries in the city remains that they should not open more widely for pupils next week.
Last month, the Government asked infant and primary schools in England to prepare to take in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils from June 1st, but Brighton Council, like many other councils in the UK, advised schools not to follow this guidance due to concerns regarding teachers’ and pupils’ safety.
During the pandemic, schools have remained open to provide childcare for children of key-workers and vulnerable children, including during school holidays. Now, the Council has urged schools to remain closed for all but these children for at least another week.
Chair of the Council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, John Allcock, said:
We are keen for schools and provision for early years to take in more children as soon as it is safe to do so. We truly understand the need for children and young people to have a face-to-face education and be able learn with friends. We are working towards this but, based on considered advice received today from public health, this is not yet the time.
While education is hugely important for our children, the council’s position has always been that the safety and welfare of our children, school staff and wider community has to be our paramount consideration.
Whilst acknowledging the strain that home-schooling is putting on many families, Allcock emphasised the need to ensure that schools are given adequate time to prepare for safe, socially-distanced learning:
Schools are doing everything possible to reduce risks. This means measures such as physical distancing, staggered school times and extra hygiene will be in place, and these require very detailed planning. When pupils return to school, the experience will be different from before as we all learn how to live alongside Covid-19.
Teachers’ unions have warned that a rushed re-opening of schools could potentially lead to a sudden surge in new coronavirus cases. Unison Schools Convenor for Brighton Matt Webb said:
We need to get this right and we need to get this right the first time round. A poorly managed and rushed reopening of schools has the potential to spread Covid-19 widely across the city very quickly. This is why unions came up with a sensible plan which we still stand by.
We are being asked to take the word of Boris Johnson over that of the medical and scientific community and that simply isn’t going to happen.
Nobody wants to see an increase in infection across our city and nobody wants a second lockdown this summer.