OPINION

We want children to return to school – as soon as it’s safe

Posted On 28 May 2020 at 12:57 pm

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.

  1. Nick M Reply

    Councillor John Allcock says “we urge the government to publish this scientific evidence and advice that would help us without delay”

    This is worrying. Science advice was published 6 days ago and advice on how to safely reopen schools 10 days ago. I know people working in schools using this advice and working on their own local risk assessments. So why does the councillor not know about this and support the local schools? Or is he trying to point score – but unaware this advice is available to all?

    Just to help the councillor:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-school-closures/guidance-for-schools-about-temporarily-closing

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52770355

    He also criticises 1st June as arbitrary. So what date would he suggest that isn’t arbitrary? Each school legally can only open (or for the many who are open for key worker children, admit more) once a local risk assessment is done for that school and all of their local needs/issues.

    Schools are extending how many children they can take slowly based on local safety and with support. I’d hope that B&HC could see that education is important and help this process – and part of that is sharing information and guides which have been available for over a week!

    The councillor and supporting officers need to do better to help our local children.

  2. Joy Robinson Reply

    I would be great if our schools could take an active part in educating der pupils and parents on the ongoing risks this virus poses. Far too many teenagers not social distancing on the lawns over this week. Quite frightening.

  3. Anthony Britton Reply

    As someone who used to work in a school, I can tell you this is a bad idea. Children have absolutely no care or sense of basic hygiene nor any understanding of social distancing.

  4. Pat Smith Reply

    It would seem that Brighton and Hove are lagging behind other authorities around the country. School heads, governors and the local authority have had ten weeks to plan the safe return to school. How long is required ? If it is a union issue then those same unions will be involved with schools nationwide, so why the problems here ? We really do need to get children, particularly those in transition years to get back to school, maybe just part of each day for safety. We really do need to get schools up and running as soon as possible as this is a long tern situation, things won’t be perfect in September.

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