Green Councillors have raised alarm at newly released Government guidance on reopening schools to more pupils.
The guidance, released Monday, states that schools must reduce class sizes, clean more thoroughly and informs staff that PPE is not necessary.
It also sets out the Government’s aspiration to return all primary school classes to school by the end of summer term.
The move to return to school has been challenged by the biggest teachers’ union and the predominant schools union in the city, the National Education Union.
Green Councillor Sarah Nield, Green Group lead on schools said:
“We want pupils to be able to return to school – but only when it’s safe. We do not believe it is safe to do so right now and crucially, neither do many teachers or school staff. The Government should listen to the National Education Union and put a halt to these plans.
“At best this advice is deeply contradictory – at worst it is reckless and dangerous. We are terrified that our city’s children and the wider community will be put at risk by these plans.
“While we welcome the news that parents will not be fined for keeping their kids at home, we believe the advice on how to manage a safe return to school is not practical or wholly reassuring.
“After a decade of cuts, schools do not have teaching assistants and teachers to spare to create new classes. And telling staff they do not need PPE offers them little hope that they are protected.”
Further, Greens have called on the Labour Council to take more action to create a safe return.
Funding for the “School Streets” project, to allow safer journeys to school on foot or by bike, was paused until July at a recent meeting of the council’s Policy & Resources Committee, meaning that many access issues may not be resolved in time for a June return to school.
Councillor Hannah Clare, Opposition Spokesperson on the Children, Young People and Skills Committee commented:
“While we challenge the Government for not keeping our children safe – we must look closer to home too.
“Toxic pollution outside schools is dangerous – and we call on the Labour Council to urgently introduce measures to close streets outside schools and make walking to school safer, and easier.
“Not only will this allow families to safely social distance when they bring pupils to school, but it will also have air quality benefits – crucial when evidence is showing the links between poor air quality and coronavirus deaths. Already positive moves across the city have happened – the closure of Madeira Drive and the new cycle lane on Old Shoreham Road – but the council must go further.
“We also ask that the Council offer reassurances to the many staff working in our city’s schools – that the council will do everything it can to ensure their safety. Green Councillors stand with all parents and staff in the city speaking out about the risk of a return to school at this time.”