Update from Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones on Schools and Nurseries
Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones has recommended that schools and nurseries in Doncaster should not reopen on 1 June
Following weeks of extensive discussions with school leaders and trade unions, which represent school staff, earlier this week Mayor Ros launched a parents/carers survey to ask for their input.
Mayor Ros Jones, who wrote to the Prime Minister this week seeking clarity on the Government’s plan, said: “This decision is a vital one for so many families across Doncaster for a wide variety of reasons, so I wanted to make sure that I fully understood the position of everyone who is directly involved before making a recommendation.
“There were three key points that were consistent across headteachers, trade unions and parents alike. For me these points could not be ignored and need addressing before we can open schools across the borough.”
The three points Mayor Ros refers to are:
There is currently no access to data about community transmission at a local level. This means there is not enough of a critical understanding on how active the virus currently is in Doncaster to be confident about sending more children and staff into a school environment.
“This has been a major concern of headteachers and trade unions over recent weeks,” said Mayor Ros. “The results of the parent/carer survey further emphasised this, with 74 per cent of the 9,500 plus respondents saying they would need reassurance on this issue before they would consider sending their child back to school. This is a concern I also share and something I have asked the Prime Minister to rectify immediately.”
Proper access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for teachers and sanitising equipment for both staff and children.
“Doncaster Council is working closely with schools to support them to source all of the relevant PPE, and although we are confident that we can get this to schools by June 1st, the more bespoke sanitising equipment – such as hand washing stations – will take longer. I am not comfortable sending children into school if we are not sure we will have the necessary equipment to allow good hygiene for increased usage. We know this is also important to parents with 46 per cent citing PPE access as something they are concerned about and 48 per cent wanting more information on the measures being taken to keep schools clean and disinfected,” said Mayor Ros.
A proper understanding of capacity within schools
“The word ‘reopening’ is very misleading in these circumstances, as all of our schools have been open throughout the past nine weeks for key worker children and those classed as ‘vulnerable’ and I would like to thank all the teachers who have worked so hard to make this possible throughout. It is important that these children continue to be prioritised by our schools in coming months. In order to do this, there will be a significant impact on school capacity and the number of children who will be able to safely return under the Government’s physical distancing guidance. Schools have been working hard on these calculations, and working with children in the ‘vulnerable’ category to get them into school. Over recent weeks, we have seen a significant increase in the number of key worker and vulnerable children attending school and we expect this trend to continue so ensuring we can cater for them in maximum capacity numbers is vital. Again, this was something that came out strongly in the parent survey, with 46 per cent demanding smaller class sizes,” added Mayor Ros.
This announcement will come as welcome news to the majority of parents and carers who took part in the Mayor’s survey earlier this week. 74 per cent of respondents who have children in Nursery, Reception, Y1 and Y6 said they do not intend for their children to return to school or nursery if they were to reopen from June 1st.
Other feedback from the survey, shows that key worker parents and carers were just as concerned about more children returning to school, with a significant number saying they may be less inclined to send their children to school if more children are attending.
Mayor Ros, concluded: “I am clearly recommending to schools and nurseries that they do not reopen on June 1st. It is of course an autonomous matter for schools and nurseries as they make their own decisions but I hope they will listen to parents and carers and unilaterally agree not to reopen at the beginning of June.
“I will continue to work closely with all parties to monitor the situation and keep this recommendation under constant review but for now the best thing for Doncaster is for schools to remain open only for key worker and vulnerable children.
“Returning to school will not be the experience it was before the pandemic for Doncaster’s young people and staff so we have to ensure collectively that schools and nurseries are as safe as possible and well-prepared for their return.”