More than 5,000 people tuned into a parent meeting about school safety on Monday evening. And 600 people joined the Zoom event, called by Parents For a Safe Return.
Parents described the stress that Boris Johnson’s delays in closing schools has caused. Emma Collett, a parent in Nottingham, said her primary aged child “doesn’t feel safe”.
“He’s become more anxious since going back to school,” she said. “He’s really scared. It’s an utterly intolerable situation.”
Leandra Tilley is a special educational needs teaching assistant and Unison union member in east London.
“We have the sixth highest rate in London,” she said.“We were expected to go into work today and we didn’t go in—we sent our Section 44 letter.”
Human rights barrister Mark McDonald said regulations allowing parents to be fined for not sending children to school were suspended during the first lockdown.
“At the start of the academic year, those regulations were put back in place,” he said.
This means parents who are vulnerable with serious health conditions such as cancer or COPD are “living in fear”.
Valerie Bossman-Quarshie, a parent from Islington, said Johnson “is a liar” for claiming schools are safe.
“All the Tories care about is their pockets and their best friends, not our lives.”
East London health worker and primary school parent Jordan Rivera backed the call to close schools.
“I know my children do better in schools,” she said. “But it’s just not safe.”
Author Michael Rosen, who was hospitalised with Covid-19 last year, said he was “worried” as the parent of a school age child.
“Schools are very virus-friendly,” he said. “It was a terrible experience I had—48 days in intensive care. I fear I could catch it again.”
These lies will cost lives
The Tories are lying about school safety. Boris Johnson said on Sunday, “There is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe.”
Yet just a few weeks ago, the Tories admitted that cases were soaring among school children.
“The testing results and surveys show us that by far the fastest rise is among secondary school age children, 11 to 18 year olds,” health secretary Matt Hancock said on 10 December. We know from experience that a sharp rise in cases in younger people can lead to a rise amongst more vulnerable age groups later.”
Sir Mark Walport, part of the government’s Sage group of scientists, warned last week, “We know that transmission occurs within schools.
“We know that a person between 12 and 16 is seven times more likely than others in a household to bring the infection into a household.
“And we know that there was a small dip in the amount of transmission in schoolchildren after the half-term, which then went up again when they went back.”
Sage last month warned the government that even the closure of all schools may not get the virus under control.
400,000 view NEU meeting
Some 400,000 people joined or watched an NEU union online meeting on Sunday to discuss resisting an unsafe return to schools.
It was a sign of the mood that exists to stop the Tories putting more lives at risk.
Joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said that, since the development of a new virus strain, the situation is getting “worse, not better. There is substantial scientific thought that the current variant is more transmissible among children,” he said.
“Primary age children by the end of the school term were the second most infected of all age groups, surpassed only by secondary pupils.”
Joint general secretary Mary Bousted said it is unsafe to fully open schools with crowded buildings, no social distancing and poor ventilation.
“We do not need to be lectured about how important education is,” she said. “But in opening schools against its own scientific advice, the government is failing to protect children, their families and communities.”