Over 2,000 ask Hertfordshire County Council not to reopen schools ‘until safe’

PUBLISHED: 06:50 28 May 2020

Schools will reopen for certain age groups on June 1. Picture: Getty Images/Purestock

Schools will reopen for certain age groups on June 1. Picture: Getty Images/Purestock

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A petition launched by a concerned father of three to prevent schools from reopening has received more than 2,000 responses.

Welwyn Hatfield-based Jamie Lewis is adamant that his only primary school age child, a six-year-old, will not go back.

Although he has that choice for his child, his wife – who is a teaching assistant – will still be working with “increased risk”.

He said: “Young children are like magnets, the only way to stop them from attracting is removing them completely away from each other.”

As a member of the Conservative party, he hopes people see that this is not political and is about doing the right thing for teachers, children of key workers and vulnerable pupils.

He added that he feels headteachers – who have been told they can choose the date of wider reopening – are worried about the stigma from either choice.

“It shouldn’t be up to them. It should be the local authority,” he said.

A Hertfordshire primary school teacher – who is classed as vulnerable to COVID-19 – said: “I support returning to school for Year 6 who can socially distance and need transition to Year 7, but absolutely not reception and Year 1.

“It is totally unnecessary and will do the young ones more harm than good from a mental health perspective. School will be so alien to them and all the nurture and care they need will not be able to be given. It’s so wrong.”

All pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are to return to school from June 1, but the government has acknowledged that might not be possible for every school.

Secretary of Hertfordshire’s National Education Union Barhey Singh said that they are quite happy to open provided that the scientific evidence confirms that it is safe.

But Mr Singh, whose union represents teachers, does not believe that has been demonstrated.

He said: “We don’t want children and staff becoming ill and we don’t want transmission rates to go up.”

Schools in Hertfordshire are taking different approaches when exactly they will be back but many are planning for the return of pupils on June 1.

Stevenage’s St Nicholas Church of England Primary School has said: “We know it is a hard decision to make regarding whether to send you child back or not. We will support your decision that you feel is best for your family.”

Hatfield Community Free School said it will open on June 2 and will continue to provide work that can be done at home for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 who do not come back, but point out that teachers will provide minimal online support.

Herts county councillor Terry Douris, cabinet member for education, libraries and localism, said that they are helping teachers openly safely.

Cllr Douris added: “The safety of our children and school staff is paramount and schools will be completing thorough risk assessments to ensure this safety can be maintained.

“Whilst we understand that some schools will face school-specific challenges extending their opening for various reasons and we completely support them in this, we would urge schools collectively to pay careful regard to the general principles around extending opening which the Government is asking them to adopt.”

You can sign still the petition at change.org here but the deadline has passed for HCC accepting more signatures.


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