Wednesday 27th May 2020
Dear Cllr. Caroline Kerr,
We are writing to you regarding the decision to begin reopening schools on June 1st. As you should be aware, a report published by top scientists in ‘Independent SAGE’ has stated that it is not safe to reopen schools on June 1st. The report suggests that June 15th would be a more appropriate date to reopen schools, by which time risks to children presented by Covid-19 will be halved.
We think this should give us all pause for thought and consider the approach we are taking locally. Having consulted with the Secretary for the Kingston-upon-Thames National Education Union (NEU) Branch, we believe it is imperative that this advice from Independent SAGE is not ignored by Kingston Council.
Many councils across the country have already indicated that they will not begin reopening schools to larger groups of students until June 15th at the earliest. We believe that we should do the same and take a coordinated approach to this.
In their draft report “Should Schools Reopen?”, Independent SAGE say, “We believe that decisions on school opening should be guided by evidence of low levels of COVID-19 infections in the community and the ability to rapidly respond to new infections through a local test, track and isolate strategy. There is no clear evidence that these conditions are met. Until they are, it is not safe to open schools on June 1st.”
Further, Mr David King, the group’s chair and the government’s former chief scientific adviser stated: “It is clear from the evidence we have collected that June 1st is simply too early to go back. By going ahead with this dangerous decision, the government is further risking the health of our communities and the likelihood of a second spike
We are therefore asking you to recommend delaying any wider reopening of schools in Kingston until at least 15th June, when it appears that risks will be halved and contact tracing is widely available.
We appreciate that the government’s handling of this situation has put you and Headteachers in a terrible position. Effectively, you have been asked to decide between government guidance and the safety of our community. Like the NEU, we wish to continue working with you to ensure that any plans that are put in place are sustainable and work for everybody. We believe that our priority should be putting the safety and well-being of students and staff in schools first.
We believe that taking a step to delay the wider reopening of schools would ensure that it takes places in a sustainable and safe way.
Chair for Kingston & Surbiton Labour