By Deborah Lawson, General Secretary, Voice
Schools and early years settings responded with little notice and very quickly to the lockdown. Since then, teachers and early years and support staff have worked tirelessly and very creatively to produce exciting learning activities which pupils and children can do at home. They have rapidly upskilled to make use of the latest technology to support remote learning, and have worked through their holidays without additional pay to ensure facilities for key workers are available.
They must be supported now, and through any process of opening schools and nurseries to more pupils, so that they are confident that going to work does not pose a health risk to them or their families.
All the national governments are looking at various scenarios to prepare for opening schools to more pupils. In all cases, this is likely to include a phased approach.
The health, safety, and wellbeing of all those in schools and nurseries must be paramount if the risk of a second wave of infection is to be avoided. There is no one-size-fits all.
Safety first and foremost
Any decision to open schools and/or nurseries to more pupils must be based on:
- Robust scientific evidence that clearly states it is safe for staff and pupils, and which:
- gives staff and parents confidence in the decision;
- clearly states the ongoing reduction of transmission of the virus and;
- the role of children and young people in the transmission of the virus; and
- is based on health and welfare need and not economic need.
- Testing of staff and their families which is
- regular and freely available, not only when a case is suspected; and
- tracking of tracing following diagnosis.
- Availability of guidance on strategies in advance of wider opening to include to include:
- risk assessment;
- provision of soap and antibacterial gel;
- provision and use of PPE;
- practicalities of social distancing;
- timetabling; and
- action following confirmation of diagnosis in schools.
- Availability of sufficient staff and services to support wider opening which takes account of:
- protection of vulnerable staff or those living with others who are at risk;
- availability of support services such as cleaning and school meal services; and
- transport and travel to work.
Further information for Voice members