On Friday 15 May 2020, Voice, along with other educations unions, was privileged to speak with the Government’s scientific and medical advisors, including Professor Chris Whitty. Although every effort was made to present the evidence in a straightforward and understandable way, there are gaps in the evidence base due to the newness of the virus.
Voice is calling for the scientific evidence to be published in full, as stated in the General Secretary's Letter to the Education Secretary (pdf) (14 May 2020).
The government is relying on the 'R number'. We know that it is one of their five tests for R to be below 1, and we know that the government intends a nationwide rollout of contact tracing to keep the R number low, but we have had no indication about what the plan is for schools and early years settings should ‘R’ approach or exceed 1.
On the question of PPE, there was little additional assurance, with the advisors' responses including that it was ineffective or obstructive in school settings, despite the contradictory guidance relating to being indoors or on public transport. The key guidance continues to be around social distancing, hand washing and “catch it, bin it, kill it”.
We are encouraged by the movement of other unions towards a proactive position where members engage in practical preparedness for a wider opening in England, as this is what Voice has always advocated.
Subject to the Government’s five tests being met, and robust risk assessments being undertaken in all settings, Voice remains of the position that schools are in the best position to determine if they have everything necessary to be safe and to decide when it is appropriate to fully reopen.
DfE: Overview of scientific information on coronavirus (COVID-19) (15 May 2020)
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