PRIMARY school teachers from Stroud have expressed concerns about returning to the classroom when lessons resume next month.
The Government has set out plans to begin a phased reopening of primary schools from Monday, June 1.
Under the Government’s conditional plan, the youngest children in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in England will return to school on June 1 at the earliest.
One primary school teacher who works in the Stroud area but asked not to be named said: “As a teacher, you want children in school, however, the safety of their families and school staff should be paramount.”
She said that social distancing will not be possible.
“Rather than consulting teachers, guidance has been written and put out which isn’t practical, then teachers are expected to make it work or are made out to be villains,” she added.
“An example is saying that they are ‘fairly certain’ children aren’t in any danger if they just walk past one another but the issue comes with interacting face to face and also saying that children won’t want to share their food – from working in schools you know both of these things do and will happen.”
Another primary school teacher who lives in Stroud said: “Schools should not be open until it’s safe to do so.
“The Government think it’s okay to make us teach with no PPE.
“So how on earth are we going to be kept safe?
“I feel the general consensus among teachers across the country is we want our schools to be safe but social distancing will be a very difficult plan to put in place.”
Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie said schools reopening was a positive move and expressed concerns about online lessons.
Writing in her weekly column in the SNJ, she said: “Some families only have one laptop between them – that is often needed for a parent’s job – and many children are trying to do homework on their smartphones.
“Children at risk of harm or neglect have also lost the daily protection of school.
“Parents also desperately need schools to be open so they can earn a living.
“The Department for Education is clear the National Education Union’s five tests about Covid-19 have been met and the WHO’s chief scientist backs the Government about school safety.”
Ms Baillie said she understands teachers’ concerns but is confident social distancing can be implemented effectively.
Sarah Murphy, representative for the National Education Union’s Gloucestershire District, said: “The view of the NEU is that students and staff should be returning to school as soon as it is safe to do so.
“We recognise the importance of students being taught face to face’ and that there is an economic impact of parents looking after their children at home rather than being at work. We are concerned, however, that the Government is advising that half the students in a primary school, reception, 1 and 6 should all be returning together on the first of June.
“The BMA – the UK’s largest doctors’ union – said in a letter to the NEU on Friday that the number of coronavirus infections remained too high to allow schools to run safely.”
Stroud district councillor Rachel Curley (Cainscross, Lab), said: “We think there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about what is safe for children, their parents and school staff and we support the questions the trade unions are asking about the Government’s plan for the safe wider opening of schools.”
Gloucestershire county councillor Eva Ward (Stroud Central, Green) said: “We know there are serious problems resulting from schools being closed and we recognise the need for schools to reopen as soon as possible but only when it is safe.
“If the Government is truly following the science, it must reverse this foolhardy decision.”