- It is not yet safe for children to return to school according to a new report by an independent group of UK scientists.
- The UK government has called on schools to begin a phased reopening from June 1.
- However, only a minority of schools are set to reopen by that date due to safety fears and logistical concerns.
- New polling shows most parents in the UK do not believe it is safe for schools to return.
- “By going ahead with this dangerous decision, the government is further risking the health of our communities and the likelihood of a second spike,’ said the UK’s former chief scientific adviser Sir David King.
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It’s not yet safe to re-open schools and doing so now will only risk a second spike of the coronavirus, according to a new report by an independent group of UK scientists.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on primary schools to begin reopening on June 1.
However, the group of senior scientists, fronted by the UK’s former chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King, said on Friday that there is “no clear evidence it is safe to do so.”
King, who chairs the “Independent SAGE” group of leading scientists, said it is “too soon” for children to return and suggested delaying the reopening of schools for another two weeks until the government has rolled out a track-and-trace programme.
“It is clear from the evidence we have collected that June 1 is simply too early to go back. By going ahead with this dangerous decision, the government is further risking the health of our communities and the likelihood of a second spike,” said King, who set up the Independent SAGE group to provide alternative advice to that being provided by SAGE, the government’s official advisory science council.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to cancel the government’s instruction to councils to reopen junior schools to some year groups from June 1.
Currently schools are only open to small numbers of vulnerable children, as well as the children of key workers since they closed in March.
Teachers’ unions have called on the government to scrap the date and allow local councils to reopen schools when they believe it is appropriate.
Local authorities have warned this week that they cannot guarantee schools will reopen on June 1. Only 20 of 99 councils who responded to a BBC survey said they were on track to reopen schools to Reception, Year 1, and Year 6 groups on the first day of June.
A further 68 councils said they could not guarantee that schools would be open by that date.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Support for a fixed date for school return is vanishing quickly. What is needed now is local flexibility to determine when it is right for schools to open up to more pupils, informed by evidence of what is happening in their own local area.”
A report published by the Independent SAGE Group indicated that delaying school re-openings by two weeks would halve the risk to children, and that delaying the reopening until September – when schools usually resume after summer holidays – would carry an even lower risk.
The report suggested reintroduce some school services amid concerns that economically disadvantaged and BAME children risk falling further behind their peers while schools remain closed.
Proposals included summer camps and open-air schools, and suggested requisitioning football fields, as well as independent school buildings and playing fields to provide more space.
Most parents think it isn’t safe for kids to return
A new poll published by ITV News on Friday, found overwhelming opposition to re-opening schools among British parents.
Six out of ten UK parents said they did not feel safe sending their kids back to school before the summer holidays begin in July.
A further 82% say they sympathise with teachers who refuse to reopen classrooms and more than half (57%) say reopening schools will lead to an increase in coronavirus infections.
Most parents (53%) said that teachers should have the biggest say on whether primary schools reopen, compared to just 27% who said the government should have most say