#schoolsafety | Government has done ‘precious little’ to prepare for safe return

Schools, socialising and some sports are set to return next month under the Government’s plan to relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England.

It is understood that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will tell MPs that all pupils in all years can go back to the classroom from March 8, with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed to restart as well.

Socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted in a fortnight when the rules are relaxed to allow people to sit down for a drink or picnic.

A further easing of restrictions will take place on March 29 when the school Easter holidays begin – with larger groups allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

The “rule of six” will return along with new measures allowing two households totalling more than six people to meet – giving greater flexibility for families and friends.

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts are also set to reopen at the end of next month.

And organised adult and children’s sport – including grassroots football – can return from March 29.

Schools

Teaching union NASUWT, meanwhile, issued a fresh call for education staff to be prioritised for vaccines in the second phase of the rollout as schools reopen.

The GMB union says we need more safety, more space and less stress and listed a number of measures that need to be taken in order to ensure school safety:

  • A phased return where social distancing is not possible
  • Face masks (not just face coverings) to be provided in early years, primary and SEND settings where children will not be wearing face masks (should be to FFP2/N95 standard) as these are now higher risk settings
  • Central government funding for mandatory face coverings to relieve the financial burden from schools and ensure all face coverings meet WHO standards
  • Prioritisation of vaccinations for all workers in a school setting
  • A functioning testing system in place
  • Ensuring appropriate ventilation in all settings at all times
  • All restructures to be paused so that we don’t lose valuable staff as heads move towards balancing their budgets and saving money.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said: “We want all our kids in their classrooms and learning but we need a proper credible plan.

“Let’s face it, the Government has done precious little to make schools safer between the start of lockdown and now despite having ample time.

“Once again, the media has been briefed before school workers and their unions. As a starting point we need to see risk and equality impact assessments to fully know what we are dealing with and how the Government plans to support safety in schools.

“School support staff have been in classrooms throughout the pandemic – schools have not been closed – many school workers are telling us that without additional protective measures, more space and proper support a full return won’t work.

“We need full central Government funding for enhanced safety measures, extra PPE in primary, early years and SEND settings which are now higher risk – and for school workers to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

“This isn’t just about keeping school workers and our children safe. It’s about keeping the R number down for all of us.”

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