Councillor Jon Taylor on plans to reopen schools

The Government must provide more evidence that it is safe to open schools before pressing ahead with its plans for opening on 1 June, Council education chief Councillor Jon Taylor says.

Councillor Taylor says the date opening announced by the government is way too soon without clear evidence that it will be safe for teaching staff and pupils

In his televised address on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked schools to prepare to receive children in reception, year one and year six after the May half-term.

But Councillor Taylor, who is Plymouth's Cabinet member for Education, Skills and Transformation, has doubts about the plans and asks for the evidence to be shared that it is safe to open.

"Like all local authorities around England, we will be supporting all of our schools to open from 1 June as requested by government,” said Jon. 

"But we're very nervous and we know that teachers and head teachers feel the same. We suspect that many parents will, too. 

“It is our firm belief that 1 June is way too soon to send children back to school.

“The government has said all along that they would be guided by science. But I’ve seen no evidence to suggest there is any science behind this decision.”

Following Sunday's address, the government released guidance for schools late on Monday night.

Councillor Taylor continued: "The guidance is more detailed than we have seen at times but is still perplexing. It shows a basic lack of understanding of how schools operate on a day-to-day basis and places them under incredible pressure.  

"Our schools have been nothing short of incredible since this crisis began. It's not been easy. Like all organisations, they had their own staffing issues; their own financial challenges; their own hurdles to overcome. They've been there, open, day in, day out, to support vulnerable families and children whose parents are key workers.

"But now they're being asked to go further with guidance that jars with what has been issued for the rest of society. 

"While most adults are being advised to work from home if they can, their children are being asked to go to school. It doesn’t make sense.

"Where do the government think we’re going to get all of these teachers for smaller class sizes? Where do they think that schools are going to find classroom space from? As the numbers of children attending schools rises across the city we don’t see how these year groups can be added and high quality home learning maintained too.

"Like all local authorities, we want to see a new normal as soon as possible. We want to support families who are struggling, get the economy back on track and start to embrace that chink of light at the end of the tunnel. 

"But the safety of children comes first and while we will be supporting our schools to meet the aim of reopening from 1 June, we are calling on the government to publish scientific evidence on the likely impact on infection rates in the community following the reopening of schools.

“And crucially, we want the government to work with local authorities, school leaders, unions and parent groups to agree a workable plan with more realistic timescales for getting our children back to school”