Teachers and parents hold protest against school reopenings
PUBLISHED: 09:17 01 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:16 01 June 2020
Teachers and parents were among a group of placard-wielding protesters opposed to schools reopening to more pupils outside County Hall.
As the phased opening of schools to more pupils began on June 1, members of the East Anglian Workers Coronavirus Support Group staged a demonstration claiming the move left schools unsafe.
Reception, year one and six pupils are set to return to classrooms under the government’s plans.
Chris Snudden, director of learning and inclusion for Norfolk’s children’s services, part of Norfolk County Council, said just under half of schools would be reopening for more priority year groups.
Unions have expressed concerns about the plans. The biggest teaching union, the NEU, has drawn up five tests it says need to be met.
MORE: Heads expect many parents will keep children home, despite schools reopening
The small protest saw people wearing masks gather six feet apart from one another with placards and signs to make their worries heard.
Wendy Smith, a member of Unite Community, which is involved in free school lessons for children in Mile Cross, said: “I don’t think the government cares about the welfare of teachers and children. It is more about trying to get people back to work and using schools are creches not about education.
“It is not as if teachers have not been working. They have all been working throughout with homeschooling.
“It has been a whole new way of working, preparing lessons in this way and has been a challenge. But many teachers and staff are very worried about going back into unsafe schools.”
Hugh Stanners, a music teacher from Broadland High School, said: “I’m extremely worried that they are letting the children least able to socially distance back into schools first. It’s about the safety of the children who we don’t know for sure whether the risks are low, but about the whole community and the staff.
“The NEU five tests are really easy to achieve and are important.”
MORE: ‘Keep children at home’ - Norwich MP backs calls for schools to stay closed
Clive Lewis is among those to have backed local union calls for schools to stay closed and has urged parents to keep children at home.
The Labour MP for Norwich South has thrown his weight behind a joint statement by local branches of the Unison, GMB, NASUWT and NEU unions which argues that the government’s planned reopening of schools is unsafe.
He urged parents to keep their children home until there is “credible evidence” that opening schools again is safe for pupils, staff and local communities.
Speaking on BBC Radio Norfolk, Chris Snudden said: “Some schools have taken the decision they need some time today, or the next couple of days, or this week, to continue to prepare their schools.
“We know that just under 50pc of our schools are likely to be opening for more children.
“Of course, all of our schools are open as they always have been for vulnerable and critical worker children, but just under 50pc have widened their opening for those year groups, but that increases across the week and it is just under 90pc by next week.”
She added: “I understand that and I think we are all grateful that it’s parental choice at this stage. But listen to your headteacher and your school. If you need reassurance that they have put in arrangements that are right for the children, then all I can say is talk to them because it will look slightly different in every school.”
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