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Questions over schools reopening in June

By Mark Cardwell | Birmingham | Education | Published:

Questions remain over whether a city's schools will begin to reopen in June following Boris Johnson’s announcement on May 10.

Birmingham City Council house

Birmingham City Council has said it is waiting for information from central government on how schools can be reopened safely while carrying out risk assessments with school leaders and unions.

The Prime Minister has said the UK “may be in a position” to get primary pupils back into schools from June 1, starting with reception, year one and year six.

He added there was an “ambition” for secondary school pupils sitting exams next year to be given an opportunity to see their teachers before the end of term.

Since March 23, schools have been open only to children on key workers and vulnerable children.

The NASUWT union which represents teachers has said the Government has “simply not provided a single shred of evidence” that opening schools from June 1 will be safe for children or for teachers.

The union’s general secretary Dr Patrick Roach wrote to local authority directors of education and children’s services yesterday to state teachers had a legal right to refuse to go to work in an unsafe workplace.

The letter states: “The NASUWT recognises that schools and employers have been placed in a situation where the wrong decision will result in people becoming seriously ill and dying, and will therefore appreciate that there can be no compromise on health and safety.

“If this means that schools are unable to open safely before September because they are unable to make arrangements to safeguard their staff and pupils, then that position must be accepted.”

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A Birmingham City Council spokesman said the authority supports the phased reopening of schools “only where it is safe to do so”.

The council “looks forward to the Government providing us with further information about how schools can start to be reopened to pupils safely”.

The spokesman added the council is working with school leaders and union colleagues to produce a range of risk assessments to support schools to “manage the possibility of increased numbers from next month”.

The Conservative group, the largest opposition group of councillors, has warned against “equivocation”.

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Councillor Maureen Cornish, shadow cabinet member for education and skills, said: “Missing out on education will have a life long impact on children and the longer schools remain closed the harder this will be, especially for the most disadvantaged children.

“It is vital the council, the schools and the unions work together towards a common aim of reopening as soon possible, subject to meeting the tests set out by national government for easing the lockdown.

“Of course, schools will need a lot of support to do this safely, from both national and local government, but it is in everyone’s interests – most especially the children – that this is done.

“Equivocation by the council at this stage will only fuel fear and confusion, making it more difficult to properly coordinate the steps needed to ensure staff, children and parents are kept safe.”

Scientific findings are conflicted on whether children spread Covid-19 at the same rate as adults.

Mark Cardwell

By Mark Cardwell
Reporter - @mlrcardwell

Local Democracy Reporter covering Birmingham.

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