Back to school: lockdown rules will change in England ‘today’ but teachers union say plans already ‘unravelling’.

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Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer claim children are safe to return to school. Photo political satire

Some restrictions will be lifted on Monday as the first stage of the roadmap out of lockdown comes into force

Both Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer have backed a full reopening of schools for all children on March 8th

Responding to the announcement by the Prime Minister that all pupils are to return to schools and colleges from March 8, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:

“The Prime Minister has stated that it is his priority to get all pupils back to school and college. However, re-opening schools and colleges fully on 8 March is one thing; keeping them open and preventing the need for further national restrictions is quite another.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said in response to schools opening:

“…that all pupils will return to English schools and colleges on 8 March demonstrates, again, that Boris Johnson has, despite all his words of caution, failed to learn the lessons of his previous mistakes.

“Whilst cases of Covid infection are falling, along with hospitalisation rates, it remains the case, unfortunately, that cases are three times higher now than when schools re-opened last September. This fact, alone, should have induced caution rather than, in the words of Nadhim Zahawi an ‘ambitious’ school return which runs the risk of schools, once again, becoming, in the Prime Minister’s words on 4 January, ‘vector of transmission’ into the community. This risk is greatly elevated because of the new variants of Covid which are significantly more transmissive.

“Why has the English Government not taken the same route as Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland whose cautious, phased approach to school opening will enable their Governments to assess the impact a return to the classroom will have on the R rate and to make necessary adjustments to their plans.

Starmer backs the Tories, not the unions.

Starmer has constantly backed the Tories and Boris Johnson on opening schools ignoring parents, teachers unions and the science.

On opening schools Starmer told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘Ideally, I’d like to see all schools back open on 8th March and all children back in school on March 8.

Sir Keir Starmer’s stance is a rejection of pressure from unions and professional bodies, who have warned reopening schools to all pupils at the same time would be ‘reckless’ and could risk another spike in Covid infections.

We have not got to school opening times and Johnsons Roadmap is unravelling when will Starmer back the Teachers?

Alarming statistics

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 5 weeks after testing positive for coronavirus, 15% of secondary school children and 13% of under 12s are still struggling with symptoms.

Long Covid Kids also reported that between the autumn half term and December 2020, 700 children were admitted to hospital as a result of coronavirus. The virus is now known to be capable of damaging a range of organs, causing permanent disability, even in those whose symptoms had initially been mild. And because schools have been open since September, fuelling the spread of the disease, it seems likely that the long term health implications of coronavirus are likely to be worse for children than we currently know. Read more on Long Covid

The COSMOS is speaking to parents and campaigners working with @SafeEdForAll and @LongCOVIDKids campaigns about their concerns over the rush back to schools.

“The best laid plans of mice and men”

Roadmap out of lockdown

Step one of lockdown lifting is being broken down into two parts, with the first phase happening on March 8 – starting the five-week countdown until the next step – and the second phase on March 29.

England will begin to take its first cautious steps out of lockdown on Monday as children return to their school and care homes welcome back visitors to see their loved ones.

Last month, Boris Johnson revealed England’s roadmap out of lockdown which he said he hoped would be the end of the cycle of opening and closing the country.

The four-step plan, broken up by five-week intervals, begins on Monday March 8 and it is hoped to end on June 21.

In order for lockdown to be lifted the government has said that four key indicators must all be going in the right direction, otherwise the plans may be delayed.

The four indicators are:

  • The vaccine roll-out is going as planned – with all adults offered their first dose by the end of July.
  • The vaccines have been proved to be effective.
  • Case numbers are not rising and there is no risk the NHS will be overwhelmed.
  • New variants do not create unforeseen risks.

By most metrics, Covid in the UK is falling at an expected rate, if not faster, and the vaccine rollout continues to increase momentum.

So, what is going to change today?

People will be allowed to have a coffee or picnic with one person from another household in the park.

Care home residents will have more rights to be visited by their loved ones for much-needed respite.

The biggest change comes with Schools and childcare

The biggest change happening on Monday is the return of pupils to school.

Unlike the rest of the UK, England will not be phasing the return of pupils to their desks, all primaries and secondary schools will open on Monday.

Many secondary schools are opting to stagger the return over the week in order to meet the demand for testing.

Secondary and college pupils will be tested with lateral flow tests twice a week, receiving three initial tests at school before they start taking them at home. Wraparound childcare like childminders and after-school clubs can also return from March 8.

So where does it all go wrong?

Schools are struggling to get parents to voluntarily swab their kids twice a week – the National Education Union warns tonight Gavin Williamson’s master plan is ‘unravelling’

Gavin Williamson’s master plan to ­reopen schools is set to fail its first big test as thousands of ­pupils return without being tested for coronavirus.

The Education Secretary had pinned his hopes on regular lateral flow tests keeping kids and staff safe.

But a survey found many schools are struggling to get parents to voluntarily swab their kids twice a week.

It has sparked fears of a surge in cases as asymptomatic infections go undetected.

Some 57 million testing kits have been sent to schools – but experts are concerned about their accuracy when carried out by untrained staff and parents.

Teachers are expected to carry out the first three tests on pupils.

Mary Bousted, leader of the National Education Union, warns tonight that the plans are “unravelling”.

And Independent SAGE scientist Dr Zubaida Haque said the Government had “passed the buck” on testing and Mr Williamson had “failed children and parents”.

Between March and December, there were 139 Covid-related deaths among teaching staff – and more have died since.

Reopening schools will bring nearly 10 million pupils and staff back into circulation in England.

Secondaries are being allowed to stagger the return over two weeks – meaning some pupils will have just ten days in class before the Easter break.

A poll of 943 schools by the Association of School and College Leaders found more than half were having difficulty obtaining parental consent for testing.

An ITV survey of 200 secondaries found as few as 9% had consent rates above 95%.

Some parents have said on social media they will not allow their child be tested unless they can be there too.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College leaders, called the polls “worrying”.

One anonymous teacher told the Sunday People that the “vast majority” of parents at her east London secondary school had not given consent.

“The concern is falling back into the pattern from before Christmas with whole year groups being off,” she said.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We encourage everyone to consent, following staff and students who have taken millions of tests while schools have been open to critical workers and vulnerable children.”

Care home visitors return

Monday will also finally allow the return of visitors to care homes after almost a year of forced separation for most residents.

Residents of care homes will be allowed to nominate one person to be a regular visitor as long as they get a test close to their visit and wear PPE.

By now practically all residents of care homes will have received their first dose of the vaccine, as will many of the people who will be visiting them.

#schoolsreopeninguk

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