Having consulted widely with head teachers, teaching unions (NEU, NASUWT) and school support staff trades unions (Unison, GMB), I have agreed to sign and support the following statement below.
Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear from this government’s actions that they are prepared to play fast and lose with the safety of the British people. We have one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in Europe because of the numerous and consistent failures of this government; the decisions it took, or failed to, and a critical failure of leadership.
We should not now let it compound this failure at the expense of our children, school staff and the wider community, who will be endangered yet further at its insistence schools reopen on June 1st.
Therefore, until the five tests below are met I would, as your MP, urge all constituents whose children are not already at school, to keep them at home.
KEEP THEM HOME. KEEP THEM SAFE.
Clive Lewis MP
STATEMENT REGARDING THE REOPENING OF NORWICH/NORFOLK
SCHOOLS ON JUNE 1
We, the undersigned, representing education workers, families and communities in Norfolk, are aware of the difficult position faced by headteachers, governors, academy trusts and Norfolk County Council in relation to wider opening of schools. We believe that these difficulties can only be overcome by schools and communities working together for the common good.
We are in full agreement that:
The overriding priority in considering wider opening of schools must be the safety and welfare of students, their families, staff and the wider public. This must include all those who work in schools, whatever their employment status. An unsafe return will only serve to break the bond of trust between school and home and will hinder a successful long-term economic recovery.
Public health considerations and the serious risks of increasing transmission rates of Covid-19 must be the primary criteria governing the strategy for wider reopening of our schools.
The wider reopening of schools will require agreement by employers and trade unions locally on a range of procedures to make sure schools are safe environments for children, their families and carers, and staff. These must include robust risk assessments in advance of schools reopening.
Wider reopening must be focused on achieving equitable outcomes, including the impact on the mental health and living standards of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families, and BAME groups. Communities facing the greatest challenges before the pandemic are being hit hardest by Covid-19 and schools, trusts and the local authority must work to overcome this disadvantage.
Therefore, we believe the following tests must be met before local schools commit to wider opening:
1. Clear scientific published evidence at a national level that trends in transmission of Covid-19 will not be adversely impacted by the reopening phase and that schools are also safe to reopen.
2. Full rollout of the government’s “test, trace and isolate policy” with testing targets consistently met over a number of weeks and case numbers falling consistently.
3. Agreement between employers and unions that operational practices and procedures in schools meet minimum quantifiable standards, judged through regular robust risk assessments, signed off by trade unions and employers.
4. Proper funding and arrangements for enhanced school cleaning with additional resources subject to risk assessment and all necessary PPE to keep them safe.
5. Clear strategies for safeguarding the most vulnerable pupils and staff, including those who have an underlying condition, are pregnant, over 70 or in the shielded group, and those who live with (or care for) anyone in these categories. These pupils and staff should be allowed to self-isolate or work from home. Consideration also needs to be made for BAME pupils and staff, who may be at greater risk from the virus, and for those staff on minimum wage (often working for contractors) who cannot afford not to be paid.
At present, we do not believe that all of these conditions have been met and call on schools, trusts and Norfolk County Council to delay opening beyond 1st June in order to meet them. This is a position we know many head teachers agree with but are unable, for various reasons, to publicly support.
Once wider opening has been agreed, we believe that a phased approach should be kept under constant review with no expectation that more pupils will return before the science shows that this is safe.
Clive Lewis MP
NEU – Norfolk
NASUWT – Norfolk
Unison – Norfolk
GMB – Norfolk