Keep Schools Closed Until It's Safe - An Open Letter to Wolverhampton City Council

Keep Schools Closed Until It's Safe - An Open Letter to Wolverhampton City Council

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We the undersigned, as administrators of the Wolverhampton COVID-19 Mutual Aid Facebook Group, invite the people of Wolverhampton to sign our petition. We speak as concerned residents of the city wishing to reflect the anxieties of many local parents, teachers, and community members. We do not presume to speak for all members of our Facebook Group, but ask them to add their voices to this cause.

We call on the City of Wolverhampton Council to join the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as well as the local authorities of Liverpool, Brighton and Hove, and Hartlepool, to reject the government’s proposal to reopen primary schools and nurseries in June, and keep them closed until the five reasonable criteria set out by the National Education Union (NEU), versions of which are supported by the British Medical Association (BMA), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), Parentkind, and other unions, are met:

  1. Much Lower Numbers of COVID-19 Cases. The new case count must be much lower than it is now, with a sustained downward trend and confidence that new cases are known and counted properly. And the government must have extensive arrangements for testing and contact tracing to keep it that way.
  2. A National Plan for Social Distancing. The government must have a national plan including parameters for both appropriate physical distancing and levels of social mixing in schools, as well as for appropriate PPE, which will be locally negotiated at school-by-school and local authority level.
  3. Testing, testing, testing! Comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff to ensure our schools don’t become hot spots for COVID-19.
  4. Whole School Strategy. Protocols to be put in place to test a whole school or college when a case occurs and for isolation to be strictly followed.
  5. Protection for the Vulnerable. Vulnerable staff, and staff who live with vulnerable people, must work from home, fulfilling their professional duties to the extent that is possible. Plans must specifically address  the protection of vulnerable parents, grandparents, and carers.

Reopening schools at this stage may cause infection rates to increase dramatically, putting our children, teachers, school staff and their families on the front line of the second wave of the virus. If schools open, parents will be under pressure to return to work, even if they feel it is dangerous.

The government has so far refused to publish the scientific advice on which the decision to reopen schools is purported to be based. The number of new daily cases nationally remains high, and there is as yet no scientific consensus on the infectivity of COVID-19 in children. Many staff have also remarked on the impossibility of social distancing with young students.

We, like parents and teachers around the country, want children to restart their education, but only when it is safe. 

We also note that the NEU has started a petition addressed to central government stating that schools should not open until these five criteria have been met, and that it has so far been signed by over 250,000 parents, teachers, and members of the community nationwide.