• James Butler

Stay Alert, Stay Safe and Put Children at Risk

Is Boris Johnson out of his mind? How do I keep 4/5/6-year-olds socially distanced and safe in school? How do I keep the children, my colleagues and myself safe?

These are the questions going through the minds of every single Reception and Year One teacher this evening. We are upset, anxious and terrified. Guidance from the DfE is coming tomorrow but I doubt that they will be able to satisfy our concerns.

As I am writing this, the reopening has just been extended to our nursery and childcare colleagues.

I think it is important to state that I do not believe it is safe for us to return to our settings just yet. Greece is releasing its lockdown after 151 deaths in total and around 100 new cases in the last week. Meanwhile, the UK has had nearly 4000 cases in the last 24 hours and nearly 32000 deaths in total (at the time of writing). We are nowhere near the stage where we should be thinking about sending children back into school. Those who say children are not as badly affected by the disease need to speak to the parents of the six-week-old who died on Friday, or the family of Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab. Just one death is too many.

I cannot fathom standing in front of my class on June 1st, children sitting two metres apart, trying the explain that their Key Workers cannot cuddle them, console them when they’re hurt or change them when they have an accident. They will simply not understand. How do I reassure parents that their child is safe when I do not believe that is the case? It is inconceivable.

We must insist that our employers ensure and guarantee the safety of children and that our government protects us. Schools and settings must reopen at some point and we need to ensure that happens with us and not to us. Schools and nurseries must provide a comprehensive risk assessment that covers all areas of risk. This is there to ensure that our working environment is ‘COVID secure’. It is important that we play a role in the development of these risk assessments, challenge things that are not correct and bring up things that are not covered. If your employer resists this in any way, contact your union or the Health and Safety Executive. I hope that most employers will be onboard with this but I’ve worked across the sector and know that some will not.

I am feeling very alone this evening but I know that is not the case. I am just one small voice in an early years sector (I’ll include Year One) that is united in believing that EVERY CHILD MATTERS. We must ensure their safety and by proxy our own. I know that we will return one day but not June 1st.

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