Teachers understand how important it is to get children back to school but the recent demonisation of them in some sections of the media has been entirely unfair and has ignored the clear and valid concerns about safety that the Government has failed to answer.

These reports have also ignored the fact that many schools have stayed open to support key workers through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Teachers and teaching assistants want to teach.

Headteachers want to open schools. Support staff want to be back at work and everyone agrees that the sooner children are back in the classroom the better, for the sake of their education, wellbeing and to tackle ever widening educational inequalities.

But there are serious problems with the proposed plan for pupils to return from 1 June, not least around an effective track and trace system, testing, the feasibility of social distancing and keeping everyone within the school safe.

These concerns have been raised by parents, school leaders, trade unions and the British Medical Association.

Within the BCP area the vast majority of schools are academies and as such are outside of local government control. They are answerable to the Secretary of State via the Regional Schools Commissioner. We are hearing reports that head teachers are coming under pressure to open despite their legitimate concerns regarding safety.

If this is true then it is unacceptable to simply brush aside worries about keeping our schools safe.

The Council is working with the appropriate partners to offer support and guidance to schools and parents but our position is clear.

Labour Councillors and the Labour Party across BCP stand fully behind the statements made by the teaching unions and will continue to support their stand of only opening schools when it is safe to do so.

We will be pressing BCP Council to exert greater pressure on the Regional Schools Commissioner to work constructively with teaching staff and their trade unions.

Sarah Ward & Patrick Canavan

Chair and Secretary

BCP Labour Party