‘Keep children at home’ - Norwich MP backs calls for schools to stay closed
PUBLISHED: 19:26 29 May 2020 | UPDATED: 19:26 29 May 2020
Norwich MP Clive Lewis has backed local union calls for schools to stay closed and has urged parents to keep children at home.
The Labour MP for Norwich South has thrown his weight behind a joint statement by local branches of the Unison, GMB, NASUWT and NEU unions which argues that the government’s planned reopening of schools on June 1 is unsafe.
He is urging parents to keep their children home until there is “credible evidence” that opening schools again is safe for pupils, staff and local communities.
Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that the government’s five key tests required for the easing of the lockdown have been met - and that schools will admit more pupils from Monday.
MORE: Norfolk schools shun June 1 for planned reopenings
The prime minister said: “Closing schools has deprived children of their education, and, as so often, it is the most disadvantaged pupils who risk being hardest hit.
“On Monday, we will start to put this right in a safe way by reopening nurseries and other early-years settings and reception, year one and year six in primary schools.”
The decision comes after teaching unions and some council leaders have spoken out about safety concerns.
The local joint union statement demands that five tests are met before schools commit to increased opening, including explicit scientific confirmation that reopening will not increase transmission of Covid-19, the successful roll-out of track and trace and clear strategies to safeguard vulnerable pupils and staff.
The statement adds: “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 June 1 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.”
Clive Lewis said: “Like these unions, all of which have members at risk, I am anxious that opening schools to more children from Monday could lead to another swell in Covid-19 infections.
“All of the indicators are flashing that it is too early to open schools again.
“SAGE scientists independent of the government are clear the level of infectivity across the country is too high to take that risk now. Robust testing systems are not in place.
“That’s why, as their MP, I’m appealing to all constituents whose children are not already at school, to keep them at home until the five tests in the statement are met.”
MORE: ‘Teachers aren’t being lazy’ - education group letter to parents defends school reopening approach
Norfolk County Council has said it has been working with the county’s schools to support their reopening but that head teachers were best placed to make the decision on when to reopen to more pupils.
It said schools and early years settings will be implementing a range of protective measures to keep children, parents and staff as safe as possible.
This will include carrying out risk assessments, introducing new cleaning regimes, reducing the size of groups coming into contact with each other with special arrangements for drop-off and pick-up and making more use of outdoor spaces.
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