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Children in school. Photo: Woodleywonderworks / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0, licence linked at bottom of article

Children in school. Photo: Woodleywonderworks / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0, licence linked at bottom of article

Parents and teachers warned of the dangers of full-scale school reopening but were ignored by the government. We must continue to fight for safety first, argues Corinne Pearson

Three weeks ago I wrote an article outlining the problems with the Government’s “plan” to reopen all schools, to all students across the country. Sadly, but predictably, many of the fears outlined in that article have come to fruition.

We are now in the, totally avoidable, situation whereby over 1000 schools have been impacted by Covid-19 cases, risking the safety of students, school staff and their families. In the absence of a Plan B (e.g. funded and resourced blended learning) our children are now experiencing a purely binary education; it’s “on” until it’s “off” for a fortnight of self-isolation. Meanwhile, teachers are under ever-increasing pressure to both plan and teach face-to-face lessons and supply piecemeal home learning for affected students.

With Test and Trace in its current state, school staff, students and their associated family members are being forced to self-isolate, unsure if they have the symptoms of a highly infectious virus or those of a common cold. Dido Harding doesn’t “think anybody was expecting to see” this (we expected it – see point 7).

At BRTUS: Parents United we’ve been told harrowing stories of students being rejected for tests because “they aren’t a priority”, teachers begging for tests (sometimes at the cost of £180 from private companies) and parents at their wit’s end having tried, and failed, for days to get a test locally, despite what Priti Patel might claim!

It’s about to get worse.

I live in a city comprising two very big and very popular universities and I can’t help but worry what impact the influx of thousands of students is going to have on our local (already pitiful) testing capabilities. My fears were compounded when, questioned by The Liaison Committee, Johnson admitted that “we don't have enough testing capacity now" and that it would be the end of October (!) before testing capabilities would reach 500,000 tests per day.

So, what can we do?

Keep up the pressure. After collective pressure from BRTUS: Parents United, the Government reluctantly introduced its mealy-mouthed “4 Tiers” system. But what it seems to be missing are the thresholds for when the Tiers come into effect. At the time of writing, Bolton has 236 cases per 100,000 but its schools seem to be operating in the same tier as those on the Isle of Wight which has 6 cases per 100,000. BRTUS: Parents United have a plan with thresholds.

Demand better. The government’s deplorable testing racket run by Serco and Deloitte is far from “world beating” and we deserve better. Tell your MP. Write to them, badger them and demand that the testing system is fixed and put in the hands of the real NHS.

Collaborate. Students, parents, school staff, unions, local councillors, MPs and other stakeholders must now unite to fight for an education revolution so that our nation’s young people are not penalised by relentless disruption to learning coupled with unrealistic exam expectations.

There is no doubt that we are battered, we are bruised and we are exhausted but for too long the government have relied on the fact that we will jam our hands in our pockets, shrug our shoulders and accept what is thrust upon us.

No more.

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