Redbridge takes a stand against plans to reopen schools

The leader of Redbridge Council has said that the borough’s schools will not have to reopen “until it is demonstrably safe”.

In a letter on Monday (May 18) Cllr Jas Athwal added that parents who kept their children home would not be fined “until we reach a period of normality”.

Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham are the only two London councils so far to have taken an explicit stance against the Government’s plans to reopen schools on June 1.

Cllr Athwal wrote: “I will not support the opening of Redbridge schools until I am assured that processes are in place to keep local children and teachers safe.

“I will continue to work closely with Redbridge parents, teachers and unions to make sure the wellbeing of school staff and children is protected at all times.

“If schools do open as planned I will make sure no parent is fined for their child’s non-attendance until we reach a period of normality.

“Teachers and headteachers should not be penalised if they cannot work or feel their schools are not ready to reopen.”

The Government hopes to have nursery, reception, years 1 and 6 begin returning to school from June 1 provided it is safe to do so, with other years following soon after.

Nine education and teachers’ unions have expressed concern about the plan, stating that though young children are less at risk from the disease they could still spread it to others.

Guidance from the Department of Education on how schools could reopen safely includes reducing class sizes, staggering break and lunch times and cleaning more frequently.

Redbridge parents are holding a Zoom meeting on Thursday May 21 to discuss how to support teachers and other school staff in resisting the reopening.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter