Trafford’s leading Labour politicians have lobbied central government to only allow schools to reopen when it is safe for all pupils and staff.
The call comes after nine unions – the AEP, GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, NSEAD, Prospect, UNISON and Unite – published a joint statement demanding robust safety measures are in place before children and teachers return to school.
This sparked Trafford’s Labour councillors to write to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, in support of the action.
Only children of key workers have been attending school since the UK went on lockdown almost two months ago.
The letter stated: “Schools must receive extra funds from government to pay for essential safety measures like Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and additional cleaning.
“The reopening of schools will depend on ensuring that families and carers are confident that allowing their children to return to school is safe, and we do not believe that sufficient levels of confidence exist at this time.
“We have followed the Department of Education (DfE) guidance and believe there are many areas that still lack clarity.”
The letter also echoed the unions’ call to set up a national taskforce for ‘safe schools’ to be led by government officials, union leaders, and stakeholders.
Cllr Karina Carter, Trafford Council’s Lead Member for Education, said: “Trafford Labour understands the importance of pupils returning to schools – and the wider benefits this will bring to the individual pupils, their families and the community.
“However, our children are not to be used as guinea pigs, and that is why we are calling for greater clarity in the guidelines which, according to the government, is led by science and safety.”
Meanwhile, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, expressed her appreciation to the Labour group for voicing its support.
She said: “Thanks to Trafford Labour for supporting us – and other education unions on the wider opening of schools.
“We all want to move to a wider opening of schools, but only when it is safe to do so for children, parents and school staff.
“It is incumbent on the government to work with unions and local authorities to guarantee the safety of all school communities.”
The principles and tests the government needs to apply are as follows:
- Safety and welfare of pupils and staff as the paramount principle
- No increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a national test and trace scheme
- A national Covid-19 education taskforce with government, unions and education stakeholders to agree statutory guidance for safe reopening of schools
- Consideration of the specific needs of vulnerable students and families facing economic disadvantage
- Additional resources for enhanced school cleaning, PPE and risk assessments
- Local autonomy to close schools where testing indicates clusters of new Covid-19 cases