We have 65 fantastic schools in Brighton and Hove and the council is very proud of all the hard work their staff have put in during an extremely challenging time.
Nearly all our schools have been consistently open for the children of key workers and the most vulnerable since lockdown.
I know that lots of parents will be keen to get their children back to school – and I expect lots of children will be desperate to get back too!
At the same time, I’m aware that many parents and school staff have real concerns. And I share those concerns – not least about the lack of clarity the government has provided in order for schools to reopen safely on Monday 1 June, which is such a tight timescale.
School leaders need clear evidence on the level of risk for pupils, parents and school staff in a school environment – and how these risks can best be reduced – before they make any decision.
We urge the government to publish this scientific evidence and advice that would help us without delay.
Of course, I am also very concerned about the education our children are missing and about the number of disadvantaged children that may well have fallen behind.
And we shouldn’t forget that school is about much more than academic work. It has a significant role to play in children’s – and parents’ – emotional wellbeing.
So, like everyone, I want the city’s children to return to school and early years settings but only when education leaders are confident that it is safe for children and staff.
We know this is going to be a challenge so we are working very closely with our schools and their staff teams, trade unions and governors to work out the best way to get back to normal as soon as possible.
We do not want parents who have worries around covid-19 to feel pressured into sending their children back to schools.
This is why our message to schools is that they should only reopen to more students when their risk assessments indicate it’s safe.
This is far more important, than rushing towards the somewhat arbitrary deadline of Monday 1 June.
The safety of children and staff and the wider community including parents, grandparents and carers remains my utmost priority.
Councillor John Allcock is the Labour chair of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee.
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