Vested interest alert – yes I’m claiming that word back – I come from a family of school staff, teachers, TAs, school governors. The dedication and hard work of all school staff, caretakers, cleaners, cooks, governors have shown for the safety, education, well-being, in many instances feeding, their pupils throughout this crisis has been extraordinary.

I am totally dismayed at any criticism. Staff have the well being and safety of their pupils at their very heart. Their views on the total opening of schools and the views of their representatives have to be totally respected. The issue is complex. In Liverpool, the elected City Mayor has chosen not to open schools on June 1st as a safe-guarding issue as this wonderful city is still reeling from a high rate of infection. Questions are being asked as to why Mayor Joe Anderson has taken this stance when schools in Denmark, led by our sister party, are opening. Joe has never said Liverpool can’t open its schools, he has said when it’s safe to do so and only then. Each local authority has its own characteristics, not only in terms of levels of this dreadful pandemic, but the physical nature and age of its school buildings, levels of deprivation, staffing, the amount of public funding available and not available, the differing needs of its pupils. Country by country comparison is far too simplistic. This is an educational, health and societal issue.

We all want all our children back in school and we are most worried about our most vulnerable, where home-schooling in a cramped flat with no outdoor space is stretching our children’s educational and physical and mental health well-being. I have family members with differing views – what I do know is that they are taking decisions based on local circumstances and always with the education and health of their pupils and staff foremost in their thinking. What is clear is that our health and education services, so starved of resources in this dangerous and false economy of austerity, especially in cities like Liverpool, have to be funded properly based on demographic need. I sincerely hope this Government remembers that but I fear not. Is it safe to open schools to children other than those of key workers or classed as vulnerable? There will always be risk – the question is how to reduce it. We must now learn from other countries – transmission from children to adults, children returning to schools in Italy presenting with multisystem inflammatory syndrome weeks after exposure.

The UK did not have community testing, contact tracing and isolation early. Surely the question is are schools safe enough to open? Which means we need information and monitoring at a local level, the amount of new cases locally and rates of transmission. Local data should be driving policy and assuming a date for the entire country is ideologically rather than data driven. We need to get children back into education, but a locally managed data driven approach has to be the only way. Prioritising testing over a date. Listening to our teaching staff and our unions.

For Liverpool in present circumstances – I’m with Joe.

Theresa Griffin Labour MEP North West 2014-2020

Member SHA

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One Comment

  1. Louise Lowry says:

    I worry about the parents of 5 and 6 year olds gathering at the school gate twice a day, with perhaps upset children, forgetting social distancing, I know if my child were upset going or coming out of school i would take risks and I am very risk averse.( Also my days waiting at the school gate are in the distant past.)
    I believe ,thank goodness, that there is practically no risk at all to the children themselves if they get the virus and am prepared to believe or could be persuaded there is little risk of the children passing the virus on to adults, but size of that risk is unknown. A professor said on ‘ More or Less’, radio 4 this Wednesday that for most parents of young children below 40 the risk of dying of the virus was extremely small, so we should open up our schools. He did not address the spread of the virus in that community. On Merseyside apparently and in the less affluent areas the number of infections is above that in other parts of England. Wales and Scotland are not opening their schools on the 1st of June, I am not happy for Merseyside communities to add to the Tory goal of pursuing herd immunity.
    If there really were world class test,trace and isolate in Uk as there is in S. Korea I would be reassured. On the same edition of ‘More or Less,’ it was stated that the number of tests carried out each day was much greater than number of people tested possibly because 2 different swabs were taken from the same person at the same time and both swabs were processed and so 2 tests were recorded! Similar to pair of gloves being counted as 2 items of PPE. But vital to UK’s ability to test, trace & isolate.

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