Should schools be included in the November lockdown ?

Boris Johnson confirmed at Saturday evening’s Downing Street press conference that schools, universities and colleges would remain open during the month-long, nationwide lockdown beginning on 5th November 2020.

Since the announcement, there has been much discussion over the merits of this decision and debate as to whether it is the best course of action for teachers and pupils alike.  The disagreement is caused by the scientific findings which appear to contradict Mr Johnson’s decision to keep schools open.

Figures showed more than half of secondary schools in England sent home at least one pupil due to coronavirus last week.  The latest ONS figures showed 1% of primary school pupils and 2% of secondary students have Covid-19.  Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of National Education Union (NEU) confirmed their analysis of the ONS data suggests infection levels in primary schools are nine times higher than they were when term started in September – and 50 times higher in secondary schools.

There are currently 453,400 full-time teachers working within England and with #PutSchoolsInTheLockdown trending on twitter it is clear that not everyone agrees with Johnson’s decision.

The National Education Union confirmed, “Our campaign to amend the bill in Parliament has now reached 150,000 signatures and 20,000 have written to their MP” as of 7.16am on 2nd November 2020.   The campaign requests that, “The Government should include all schools in proposals for an immediate national lockdown and as a minimum be preparing for school rotas at the end of that period, including by actually meeting its promise to deliver broadband and equipment to those children who do not have them.”

Responding to the announcement of a lockdown for England by the Prime Minister in which schools and colleges will remain open, Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said, “With levels of virus transmission increasing exponentially, the failure to deal with the threat of the virus has, once again, been fatally exposed.”  He expands, “In light of the mounting evidence, it is critical that, where there is an outbreak of Covid-19 transmission in a school, employers and public health bodies act swiftly and without hesitation to protect public health by sending pupils and staff home.”

The General Secretary’s statement went on, “The Government has recklessly given up on the idea that social distancing can be maintained in schools, despite the evidence that this is the best protection against the spread of the Coronavirus.”

Mr Roach also called for better planning and support, “An urgent national plan for remote education is needed which must be backed up by substantially additional resources for schools.”  His full statement can be accessed here.

Conversely, in his response to the lock down announcement, Geoff Barton, ASCL General Secretary has said, “It is right that keeping schools open should be the priority in the new national lockdown… Children only get one chance at education, and we have to do everything possible to provide continuity of learning. Schools also play a vital role in providing support for children with special educational needs and safeguarding the welfare of vulnerable children.”

He went on, “While scaling back the opening of schools is clearly a last resort, this rapidly deteriorating situation of growing transmission rates may mean that some restrictions will become necessary sooner rather than later, such as implementing the rota system in secondary schools suggested in the government’s own contingency planning.
“The government needs to set out the circumstances which would trigger such restrictions in order to provide clarity and confidence – for pupils, parents and staff – that it has a robust and responsive plan in place.”  His full statement can be accessed here.

Chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has also consistently advocated for children to stay in school.  In August he argued, “The chances of many children being damaged by not going to school are incredibly clear and therefore the balance of risk is very strongly in favour of children going to school because many more are likely to be harmed by not going than harmed by going, even during this pandemic.”

During his announcement, The Prime Minister said the country could not afford to allow Covid-19 to, ‘damage our children’s futures even more than it has already’.  Going on to announce, ‘So childcare, early years settings, schools, colleges and universities will all remain open.  He assured the country, ‘Our senior clinicians still advise that school is the best place for children to be.’

The Prime Minister concluded, ‘I’m extremely grateful to teachers across the country for their dedication in enabling schools to remain open.’

Whether in school or at home, iAchieve is designed to support teachers with the delivery of vocational subjects.  The online learning platform not only offers a framework for delivery for teachers, but it provides a personalised learning space for learners embarking on their vocational learning journey.  We understand that whatever happens to schools during the lockdown, learners must have access to high quality learning and teaching, and we want to help.

Leave a comment with your thoughts, should Boris Johnson reverse his decision to keep schools open during the November 2020 lock down ?

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