Schools: the balance between safety and pupils' need for an education

Credit: ITV West Country
  • Our Political Correspondent David Wood on how Government plans to reopen schools will affect the West Country's pupils, parents and teachers.

The Government plans to get primary schools to reopen to three year groups on the 1 June, with Reception, Years One and Six students returning first with reduced class sizes and an emphasis on social distancing.

Should this be successful then Years 10 and 12 could return in the weeks that follow.

Of course many schools have stayed open during this crisis, but only to children of key workers and those who are vulnerable.

The Government is hoping unions will be convinced in the next week or so that a safe 'phased return' to schools for some pupils is achievable. Credit: PA

Countless Government ministers say that this plan is safe and that should Covid-19 infection rates increase then they would delay the opening.

However, teaching unions don't feel it is safe yet for teachers to return to classrooms. As things stand teachers and pupils wouldn't be told to wear PPE unless dealing with someone who has symptoms (of course anyone with symptoms should not be in school in the first place).

Teaching unions met with the Government's top scientists and medics last week to discuss the evidence behind the plan, but the unions complained afterwards that they still have unanswered questions.

Government scientists as well as members of the World Health Organisation say there is strong evidence that children who get coronavirus don't get the most severe cases.

That said many parents and teachers are still very concerned about safety. Labour run Plymouth City Council has told headteachers it will support them if headteachers don't feel it is safe to open.

However, a group of academy trusts have written a letter to The Times newspaper this week saying that pupil safety is very important, but that it is also vital that pupils can get back to school as many students are getting left behind.

Among the trusts that have signed the letter is the Cabot Learning Federation which runs 10 primary schools in Bristol.

The Government is hoping the unions will come round in the next week or so and believes it is safe for a 'phased return' to schools for some pupils.

What is clear is there is a very difficult balancing act in play here between ensuring students and teachers are safe at all times whilst making sure pupils, especially vulnerable ones, aren't left behind.

A balance between safety and a future.