"[The Government] must work collaboratively with trade unions, schools and parents to create a workable plan for the wider reopening of schools." Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Children, Young People, Families and Crime
Islington Council’s top priority is keeping everyone in our borough safe and supporting those on the frontline of the pandemic.
The safety of school staff, children and their families is the priority in any decision to widen the opening of schools in Islington.
That’s why the Council’s Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, has written to the Education Secretary calling on the Government to work with trade unions in the education sector on any return to school.
Unfortunately, we know that inequalities already exist in schools in Islington, and that while children remain out of school the attainment gap will only widen. Children returning to school to address those inequalities is a priority for the sake of pupils’ education and wellbeing, but the return must happen only when it is safe to do so, for both Islington’s teaching staff and children.
All of the trade unions who represent workers in the education sector have serious concerns about children returning to school at this time. While they may have been attacked in the press in recent days, the unions reflect the concerns of the dedicated teaching workforce who are already working in challenging conditions to educate the borough’s vulnerable children and those of key workers.
It is unacceptable that the Government didn’t consult with education unions, local councils or parents prior to publishing its guidance. Rather than acknowledge concerns and pledge to work with the unions on a safe return to school for some year groups, the Government has used the right wing media to attack teachers.
As Council Leader Richard Watts has said in his statement (below), as a Council, we will stand by schools in any decision they make based on their thorough risk assessment. The decisions taken by the governing body on the phased return, will vary depending on the circumstances of each individual school with health and safety of the whole school community being the top priority.
It is absolutely right the final choice on whether or not a child attends school, sits with the families who can ensure older or more vulnerable family members are kept safe. The legislation on enforcing school attendance has been suspended until September – Islington Council will not take any action against parents and guardians who believe their family would be safer if their children were not at school this academic year.
Islington’s Labour-run Council is clear that, only when it is safe for more children to return to schools, it stands ready to support our fantastic schools, staff and parents to get our children learning again.
Cllr Comer-Schwartz said: “The Government is responsible for ensuring our children can learn in a safe environment and our teachers are kept safe.
“They now must work collaboratively with trade unions, schools and parents to create a workable plan for the wider reopening of schools, but only when the science indicates it is safe to do so.”
You can read Council Leader Richard Watts’ statement on the wider opening of schools here.
You can support the Council’s efforts by signing the National Education Union’s petition here.