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Schools could turn into ‘Covid swamps’ if June 1 opening goes ahead, Norfolk union warns

PUBLISHED: 05:49 11 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:29 11 May 2020

Scott Lyons, district secretary of the NEU for Norfolk, has warned schools could turn into 'Covid swamps'  Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Scott Lyons, district secretary of the NEU for Norfolk, has warned schools could turn into 'Covid swamps' Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Norfolk’s schools could become “Covid hotbeds” if the government pushes ahead with plans to re-open them to children as early as next month, a Norfolk union boss has warned.

In his Sunday evening address to the nation, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that should a certain criteria be met primary school children could return to the classroom as early as June 1.

The announcement has been met with trepidation from teaching union representatives on both a local and national level, with the government accused of “acting recklessly” in its approach.

Scott Lyons, district secretary of the National Education Union for Norfolk, said: “The union still thinks the government has made reckless decisions in the past and this announcement shows it is continuing to do so.

“There are still people dying every day and new cases being found so it is far too soon to even be thinking about bringing young children and teachers back into these Covid swamps.

“Closing schools could be the most effective way of stopping the virus and that’s what we would expect to continue until there are far fewer cases.”

Mr Lyons added that teachers had been expressing “huge anxiety” to him about the safety in the workplace and the level of protection teachers had been receiving.

He added; “Our members have been working constantly, even over the Easter holidays. Some have huge anxiety about their level of safety even when they only have four or five children in the class at one time. That has to be a top priority.

“Quite how the government expects them and the children to feel safe and observe social distancing with classes of 30 I do not know. Schools will become Covid hotbeds.”

With several schools in Norfolk also having large catchment areas and pupils relying on buses, Mr Lyons said the county would need its own approach when the time does come for them to return.

“The prime minister’s announcement created more questions than it answers,” he added.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU nationally, added: “We think the announcement is nothing short of reckless.

“A study published last week by the University of East Anglia suggested that school closures are the single most effective way of suppressing the spread.

“There must be plans drawn up to protect vulnerable staff and vulnerable people.”


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