‘Kids are safe’ – but schools row deepens

Testing times: The British Medical Association said infection rates were too high. © Getty

Is it safe to go back to school? Teaching unions argue that the government is putting parents, teachers, and pupils at risk. But some research suggests that schools should reopen.

No passing notes, no spreading diseases.

In one Norwegian school, half of the day is spent in a local park.

On the French-Belgium border, one primary school encourages children to stay within a chalk circle drawn on the floor during their break time.

In Daejeon, South Korea, high school students sit at desks surrounded by see-through plastic barriers.

Across the EU, 22 countries have now allowed schools to reopen. There has not been any sign of a major second wave, though 70 schools in France have had to shut again because of Covid-19.

In the UK, 11 councils have expressed concerns about the speed at which schools are being asked to reopen. A cabinet minister said that the government was taking those worries “very seriously”.

Despite several thousand new cases of the coronavirus being recorded each day, the government plans to reopen Reception, Year 1, and Year 6 classes on 1 June.

This has led to many parents and teachers feeling nervous about putting themselves or their children at risk.

Indeed, teachers’ unions have pushed back against these plans calling them “reckless” and “premature”.

But what do the experts think?

In the Italian town of Vò, almost everyone was tested for coronavirus. In total, 2.6% of the population had caught the virus. Despite this, not a single child tested positive – including those who were living with infected adults.

So, is it safe to go back to school?

Textbook debate

Yes. Sacrificing the social and mental development of a generation seems riskier than a few children catching a virus that barely affects them.

No. There is no rush. The summer holidays are just round the corner. Let us focus on defeating the virus, then aim to go back to normal in September.

You Decide

  1. Would you feel safe going back to school? How do other members of your household feel about you going back to school?

Activities

  1. Imagine you are in charge of social distancing in your classroom. How would you rearrange the room? Draw a plan.

Some People Say...

“The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.”

Cicero (106 BC-43 BC), Roman politician and lawyer

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Keeping schools closed is unfair on poorer students. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, “Children in families where parents earn more spend around six hours on school work, while the lower-earning households spend approximately four and a half hours.” Closing schools is not vital to controlling Covid-19. Russell Viner, a professor at Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health said the “conclusion is that school closures are not the biggest players”.
What do we not know?
On Tuesday, a World Health Organisation doctor told Sky News that, though they knew that children could catch the virus, they were still unsure how infectious children were or, indeed, if they could pass the disease on to teachers or parents. Returning to school in the UK will be voluntary, and it is unclear how many families will be okay with sending children back. We also do not know what social distancing will look like in different schools.

Word Watch

EU
European Union, a political and economic union of 27 member states that are mainly in Europe. The UK stopped being a member of the EU on 31 January 2020, but will still follow all of the EU’s rules until 31 December 2020.
Second wave
The idea that the virus will spread across the population again at a later date, causing even more devastation. This is what happened with the Spanish Flu in 1918.
Cabinet minister
One of a small group of the most important people in government, who advise the prime minister and make important decisions. There are 22 cabinet ministers; Boris Johnson is the most important.
Unions
A trade union is group of workers that fights for the rights of workers and can defend them against unfair working conditions.
Reckless
Careless without thinking of the consequences.
Premature
Happening too early.

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