Coronavirus: Race group head fears for the safety of BAME teachers

Children walking to schoolImage copyright PA Media
Image caption Some pupils could return to school from the start of June under government plans

The head of a race equality group says she fears for the safety of BAME teachers when schools reopen at the beginning of June.

Statistics have shown black people are more likely to die from coronavirus.

Esther Dean, chair of the South West of England Race Equality in Education Group, said there was “a lot of worry and concern in the BAME community”.

The government said schools were being reopened “based on the best scientific and medical advice”.

“The welfare of children and staff has been at the heart of all decision making,” the Department for Education said in a statement.

Schools across England have been open to small numbers of vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers since they formally closed at the end of March.

The prime minister confirmed that parents and teachers should prepare for the phased reopening of schools in England to start on 1 June as planned, during Sunday’s Downing Street briefing.

Image caption Esther Dean said there was “frustration” over the lack of guidance for BAME teachers

The most up-to-date data for coronavirus deaths showed just under 200 people in Bristol out of a population of more than 463,000 have died.

Ms Dean, who has been a teacher for 25 years, said the issue was “raising questions of will we be next at the front line, will we be the next to die, adding to the death toll”.

“A lot of the teachers are working with the community and elderly people, parents with underlying health issues and some even have sickle cell disease,” she added.

“When teachers are dead, there is no point in saying how much of a hero they were going back to school.”

Ms Dean said her “frustration” was not with councils or head teachers but rather on “awaiting further guidance on our concerns to protect our lives”.

Shawnette Morgan, 40, a primary school teacher in Bristol, said she also felt the potential return to school was too soon.

“Having spoken to people in my community, there is fear with the transmission of the virus in case a teacher contracts it and brings it home,” she said.

“We need to ensure that the current BAME teachers are protected and this does not put off those who want to apply and train for the profession.”

Lana Crosbie, 44, who teaches psychology and criminology at Bristol City Academy, said: “We are vulnerable and would need to feel protected as I am not safe to go back to school.

“Going back puts us in a disproportionate position.

“As a mother of four, I find myself stretched and it’s important to realise the important work teachers are doing to restore balance.”

Image caption Aisha Thomas said she was worried about the lack of information

Aisha Thomas, assistant principal at City Academy, advocated a greater representation of black people in the teaching profession.

She has been working in school during the lockdown providing schooling for vulnerable and key worker children and said she was worried about the lack of information on coronavirus and the BAME community.

Ms Thomas said: “We are facing a global pandemic and at the moment there are variety of factors that could contribute to why BAME people are more at risk.

“BAME communities are being gas-lighted and subject to increased racism, due to ignorance and a lack of factual and scientific information.”

According to the Office of National Statistics, 65 educational workers are known to have died with coronavirus, including teacher and member of the BAME community Douval Thompson-Davis, 59, who died on 4 May.

He taught at Greenford High School in Ealing. Headteacher Mia Pye described him as a “superb teacher and a kind, generous, endlessly positive person”.

The Department for Education said: “We have engaged closely with the unions throughout the past eight weeks, including organising for them to hear directly from the scientific experts last week, and will continue to do so, including to develop further guidance if required.”

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