Reopening schools risks more harm than good

(21 May, 2020)

Children will inevitably break social distancing rules

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No one can deny that the best place for young children is to be at school.

Nothing can compete with being in a real classroom, with their friends and teachers, and having access to all the equipment, technology, and space they need to learn academically and in other no less important ways.

There is a real risk during this pandemic that a whole generation could be left behind at critical stages in their personal and social development.

But the June 1 date could risk more harm than good. For one thing, it’s a blanket measure that doesn’t take into account the regional differences and unique make-up of a school community.

Returning to school in a remote, rural setting with few COVID-19 cases and minimal public transport use is one thing.

Asking schools in the most built up, overcrowded areas of Southwark and other parts of inner London, with a high proportion of BAME children, parents and staff is quite another. These are groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

If they are to return to the classroom, they need to feel safe.

It’s all well and good saying measures will be put in place, and the government will respond to the situation and reverse any decisions based on new infections and the R rate, but right now we are the worst affected country in Europe.

The situation in care homes is catastrophic. And transport workers and health professionals are also dying. At least one transport worker has died after being spat on by a passenger.

Children will inevitably break the social distancing rules. So far, PPE is not being guaranteed and the track and trace app is in its infancy.

It’s a lot of work to make a plan that will only be in place until the summer holidays start in July.

Perhaps teachers’ time would be better spent working on plans to support children throughout the holidays.

And the government’s funding better spent avoiding holiday hunger and putting systems in place to tide parents over until September.

Rushing back for a few weeks, when we are possibly coming out of the worst of this crisis, could cost us all far too much.

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