Are we sure that schools will reopen safely?

We all want our children back in school but many parents are worried about the safety aspects whilst the virus is still around

Over the past few days, I have been approached by a number of parents with kids of different ages and with their kids going to different schools. Everyone, including me, wants the kids to be back at school again as soon as possible, this is good for their education and mental health and will mean that more parents can re-join the economy. But there are fears as to whether or not this is being safely and properly for pupils and staff.

It is also evident that some schools are better than others at explaining return dates, return conditions and how they have evaluated the safety aspects of the return.

So, I have put together a series of questions and presented them to our Director of Children’s Services. Please remember that many of the schools in Liverpool are no longer within the council’s control. Even in those that are still with us the decisions about safety and opening are made by the School Governors on the advice of the School headteacher and not by the Council. The role of the Council is largely to advise and support.

This Is what I have said to the Council and the questions that I have asked. I will, of course, get the answers out publicly as soon as I have them. If there are questions that you think I have missed please send them to me at Richard.kemp@liverpool.gov.uk.

“I have been approached by a number of parents who are confused about the reopening of their schools and the safety of pupils and staff in doing so. We have all seen that numbers of schools around the world but especially in the USA have opened and then closed again. I am aware, as I am sure you are of increased levels of research that children are more infectious than previously thought and that although they will come to no harm themselves if they catch the Coronavirus they may well bring it back into a home where there are people who are more likely to suffer badly.

So, I’d like to give you some questions that are coming to me and some that I have brought up because of a wider need to know what is happening citywide:

  • How many Liverpool Schools are expected to fully reopen in the week commencing 31st August?
  • How many schools are expected to partially reopen?
  • How many schools are not expected to reopen?
  • Have all parents been informed about the reopening plans of their children’s school(s)?
  • Having given excellent guidance to schools in June about reopening has the Council inspected the reopening plans of our schools both in theory and by physical inspection?
  • Have Public Health, Environmental Health or Health and Safety experts from the Council or elsewhere been consulted by schools or given quality assurance to schools’ reopening plans?
  • Are we sure that all staff will feel able to return to work given that they may feel the need to continue to shield despite the end of the official shielding period?
  • What will happen to staff who feel the need for continued shielding?
  • What should parents do if they do not feel that the reopening plans proposed by the Council are adequate?
  • What is our advice to schools about the imposition of fines on parents who do not take their children back to school because of concerns about the school’s plans, the travel to school arrangements or the family health problems they may face?
  • What is the referral point for advice for Governing Bodies on the advice of their Heads feel the need to close schools again?
  • Will the change in the Test, Track and Trace system be able to cope with a number of schools at a time where there are fears of a coronavirus flare up?

I think it not just important that you give me the answers to these questions but that the Council makes the answers to these questions readily available to all parents, grandparents and carers in the City. Perhaps we could have a ‘frequently asked questions’ section on the Council’s websites with a recommendation about similar information being available on the websites of schools.

I would be pleased to talk further about these issues”

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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