Socialist Worker

Victory for workers and parents as Tory school plan fails

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2708

A poster against an unsafe return to schools outside a school in south London

A poster against an unsafe return to schools outside a school in south London (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The Tories have been forced to drop plans to get all primary school children back into school before the summer term ends.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson made the announcement on Tuesday.

“We are not able to welcome all primary children back for a full month before the summer,”he told MPs

And he said that in secondary schools and colleges “remote education will continue to be the main method of education for them this term”.

It’s a victory for parents, workers, union activists and others who have fought to put safety before the drive to get parents back to work.

The Tories wanted children in reception, year 1 and year 6 to begin returning to school from 1 June. They wanted all years to return for four weeks before the summer.

Yet fears about coronavirus had already blocked the first stage of this plan.

Councils across the north west of England last week advised schools not to reopen to wider numbers of children because the rate of infection is too high.

Some workers have taken action in response. 

At one Salford school, some 23 support workers refused to go into work on Monday due to safety concerns.

Unison union school steward Jo Lanahan said, “We met at the school gate, socially distanced and voted unanimously not to go in to protect ourselves, our children and their families. It was just the right thing to do.

“We felt that by refusing to delay the further increase of numbers, children, families and staff would be put at even more risk. So, we exercised our democratic right and voted.

Response

This is a fantastic response and we need more action like this. 

The Tories haven’t got what they wanted, yet they still want to push more children back to school.

“We would like to see schools who have the capacity to bring back more children if they are able to before the summer holidays,” said Williamson on Tuesday.

“We will be working to bring all children back to school in September.”

Many schools across England are still trying to get more children back to school. And the Welsh government plans to get all schools opened to wider numbers from 29 June. This drive has already put more lives at risk. 

One primary school in Bradford, West Yorkshire, last week sent home nine children and three workers because they had symptoms of the virus. The school was later closed for a deep clean.

In north London, a parent reported that another parent who had sent their child back to school had contracted the virus.

A Derby primary school was forced to close after seven staff members tested positive for the virus.  

And at a special school in Bolton, three workers have become infected with the virus, according to the Unison union. Workers there said they thought the number might be higher.

Dr Gavin Morgan from the government’s Sage group of scientists said last weekend that keeping children at home was “100 percent worse” for them than the virus.

The lockdown is undoubtedly having a dire impact on many children. 

But forcing children and workers into unsafe situations is not the answer.

As well as fighting to keep people safe, activists must demand proper support and resources for children, workers and parents.

Please send messages of support to Salford school workers to [email protected]

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