Mail Online, UK: May 20, 2020 – Extraordinary rows have broken out on WhatsApp groups and online forums as it was revealed that up to 1,500 English primary schools are now expected to remain closed in 12 days’ time despite millions of children being at home for more than eight weeks.
It came as Justice Minister Robert Buckland admitted this morning that the June 1 reopening date may now not be “uniform” across England – as Boris Johnson’s pledge looked set to fail amid mass dissension from school staff, unions and local councils.
Mail Online can reveal that parents who want to send their children back to school claim they have been shamed by other parents and teachers who claim they are being ‘hung out to dry’ by the Government.
On Mumsnet today a thread suggested that “parents aren’t allowed to criticise teachers anymore” and sparked outrage among those in the teaching profession. One parent wrote: “I’ve seen a lot of parents genuinely concerned about the teaching who were immediately accused of ‘teacher bashing’ and being too lazy to teach their own children’. It’s ridiculous.”
Teachers then piled in, with one hitting back:”LEAVE US ALONE for GOODNESS sake. We’re all on our knees. My headteacher is about to have a nervous breakdown. PLEASE leave us alone.”
Another wrote: “Short answer. For right now, no, I don’t think parents can criticise teachers in any format” while another said teachers were being treated as “lazy cowards”, adding: “The majority of posts are just teacher bashing.”
One teacher named Angelina moaned: “Not only are we being hung out to dry in our classrooms, but it appears we’re being tasked with sole responsibility of getting the country back to work and leading us out of a global pandemic. Teachers are a tiny cog in the wheel. Schools reopening should not be the focus.”
Millions of parents are in limbo as it remains complately unclear if children in reception, year 1 and year 6 will be returning to school full time in less than a week.
One parent hit back: “Our local council has said they don’t expect kids in the three year groups to be sent in. No school will be penalised. These are unprecedented times, what the f**k do you want, a crystal ball? Nothing is going to click nicely into place.”
And even a former teacher joined the row to back parents and said: “My ex husband and his wife are teachers. They are doing f**k all. She’s baking with two key worker’s kids and he’s like on constant ppa [planning, preparation and assessment]. They’re loving it.”
Parents on school WhatsApp groups say they have also been made to feel uncomfortable for admitting they want their child in school. One said: “I felt judged and was made to feel like an awful parent as soon as I told them that I believed it was best for my children to be back in school as soon as possible.”
Last night a final decision on whether to reopen schools on June 1 was left hanging in the balance after discussions between Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and the teaching unions made no breakthrough.
And today Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the Government is still attempting to ‘persuade’ schools on the safety of returning – a tacit admission it is becoming increasingly unlikely.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Conversations are continuing between the Government and teachers’ representatives, and in some settings arrangements are being made which lead to a high degree of confidence that the risk can be managed and the setting can be safe.
“Clearly, other employers feel that is not the case and I think we have to respect and understand that and remember that June 1 was a conditional date.”
He added: “I think we’ve got to listen to what we’re being told and to engage and to persuade and to make sure the necessary arrangements are in place.”
The British Medical Association has performed a U-turn on its support for the teaching unions and said schools should reopen if it is safe to do so.
The BMA was dragged into the row when Chaand Nagpaul, its council chairman, wrote a letter backing the National Education Union after it advised its members ‘not to engage’ with the Government proposals.
But the chairman of the BMA’s Public Health Medicine Committee, Dr Peter English, wrote in today’s Telegraph of “growing evidence that the risk to individual children from COVID-19 is extremely small”.
Mail Online can reveal that parents who want to send their children back to school have been shamed on WhatsApp by other parents and teachers who claim they are being ‘hung out to dry’ by the Government.
There have also been bitter rows on online forums such as Mumsnet where mothers who want their children back in class so they can return to work have been lambasted by schools staff, with one branded a ‘fool’.
A phalanx of Labour councils have pledged to ‘resist’ Mr Johnson’s schools plan with former party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a National Education Union (NEU) rally tonight. But the party’s new boss Sir Keir Starmer is yet to get off the fence on the issue.
Millions of children across Europe, including France, have returned to school this month with no major spike in coronavirus cases yet.
The Prime Minister’s ambition to reopen primary schools on June 1 could now be scrapped amid mass dissension from teachers, unions and growing numbers of councils.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the Government would ‘listen to their concerns’ about safety and insisted opening schools in 12 days was not a ‘hard deadline’ only part of a ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown.
But the reopening of schools has been further kicked into the long grass by one of its SAGE advisers saying that the reopening of schools in ten days depended on an effective track and trace system.
Dame Angela McLean, the deputy chief scientific adviser, said that before ministers attempted any changes to lockdown measures an effective system was needed to isolated those infected by the coronavirus.
Just one in 20 teachers believe it is safe to return to school, claims union
A poll from teachers’ union NASUWT suggested that only 5% of teachers think it will be safe for more pupils to return to school next month.
In a letter to the Education Secretary, Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the union remains ‘unconvinced’ that wider reopening of schools from June 1 is ‘appropriate or practicable’.
The survey, of nearly 29,000 NASUWT members across England, found that around nine in 10 teachers believe that social distancing will be impossible, or will present major issues and a similar proportion are not confident that the proposed measures will protect their health or the health of pupils.
It also found that 87% of teachers believe that PPE is essential to protect staff against the virus.
‘School staff will not be protected by social distancing rules nor, in most cases, will they be offered any personal protective equipment. If satisfactory answers are not forthcoming in all areas, then it will not be feasible or safe to extend opening until concerns are met.’
Among the questions the checklist poses are: ‘It will not be safe to mark children’s books during this period. Will clear instruction be given that no marking should take place and the books should not be taken to and from home/school?’
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair says that schools should return as soon as possible.