Children must return to school despite safety fears, warn council bosses

Fears over pupils going back to school

Fears over children returning to school after surge in Covid cases. - Credit: PA MEDIA

Children must go back to school in Cambridgeshire - despite safety fears from parents and “imminent danger” warning from unions. 

Cambridgeshire County Council say that attendance remains compulsory for primary age pupils as classrooms reopen across the county this week. 

However, it could be that schools may be allowed to fully or partially close if they are "unable to operate safely due to a lack of staff", and instead turn to remote learning. 

Unison Eastern Region, one of the UK's largest trade unions covering thousands of workers in the county, say that they “don’t believe it to be safe for staff to be in the workplace”. 

Unison head of education Jon Richards, said: “The Government must act decisively now by delaying the start of term for all schools by two weeks because of spiralling infection rates.  

“Education should move online except for vulnerable children and those of key workers. 

“The union is clear that members who work in schools have a right to a safe working environment. They shouldn’t have to work where they face serious and imminent danger.” 

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Union leaders said that primary schools should follow secondaries in remaining fully closed for the first two weeks of terms, citing rising coronavirus cases in the country. 

Cambridgeshire County Council said it did not support a full closure of primary schools. 

"The county council believes that a blanket closure of schools is not the correct response when taking account of the overall national position and guidance and what is best for pupils," a statement reads. 

"If we determine that there is a high and increasing trend in infection levels equivalent to that in other areas where there has been national direction to close schools, we will seek support from the Department for Education to close the school to all but vulnerable and key worker children. 

"This information will be shared with schools to inform their risk assessments. 

"For school age pupils up to the end of year 11, attendance remains compulsory. 

"The preventative measures that educational establishments have put in place have been hugely effective in managing Covid-19 cases and staff have worked relentlessly.” 

Parents took to The Hunts Post social media to share their views amid rows over whether pupils should be returning. 

Many children are still off school today (January 4) due to teacher training. 

Sarah Smith said: “This is a very mild disease in children and usually harmless for any teacher under 50 without underlying conditions.” 

Joe Furnell said: “It’s absolutely ludicrous to allow schools to re-open.  

“Don’t get me wrong, education is important but how on earth are you expected to keep the virus contained letting 20/30 kids sat coughing and spluttering over each other? 

“It takes one child in that room to have it and the whole class gets it.” 

A national petition, which circulated across social media in Huntingdonshire over the weekend, has also received more than 190,000 from parents in England. 

Speaking to the BBC yesterday morning (January 3), Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged parents to send their children to school, saying the risk was "very, very low".