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200520 | Should children go back to school on 1st June? It’s nothing to do with us, says Cornwall Council

Should children go back to school on 1st June? It’s nothing to do with us, says Cornwall Council

Posted By Julia Penhaligon on 20th May 2020

By Julia Penhaligon

With less than two weeks to go before the government’s “back to school” deadline, parents and teachers in Cornwall still have no idea if classrooms will re-open on 1st June. Some are planning to open while others say the continuing Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic makes it too dangerous, putting children, staff and whole local communities at risk.

The issue has divided opinion between those who fear the psychological harm, to young children, of isolation outweighs the risk of transmitting a deadly virus. The government is still refusing to publish, in full, its scientific advice – with scientists insisting that the question is a political judgement. With Cornwall Council still refusing to hold meetings, elected local councillors have had no opportunity to express an opinion.

Unlike some local authorities, Cornwall Council is washing its hands of responsibility and leaving decisions to individual headteachers and governors. The vast majority of schools in Cornwall now are autonomous academies, answerable directly to Whitehall, and County Hall could not instruct them whether to open or remain closed even if it knew what to say. The boards of each of these academies are now studying legal advice as they try to assess their own individual liability in the event that re-opening their school leads to a death.

Of the 270 schools in Cornwall, less than 10% are still run by the council, and most of these are primary schools.

Nevertheless more than a dozen local councils around the country, supported by teaching unions, are set to defy the government and encourage more than 1,500 schools to remain closed.


Cornwall Council's Sally Hawken told BBC Radio Cornwall that each school would have to make its own decision about whether or not to re-open on 1st June

Some of the rebel councils are Conservative-controlled. But the Liberal Democrat-Independent coalition which runs Cornwall Council is hoping to avoid conflict with Whitehall by leaving the “life-or-death” decision to local headteachers.

The council’s cabinet portfolio holder for schools, Independent councillor Sally Hawken, said each school would have to make its own decision. She told BBC Radio Cornwall that schools were each carrying out their own risk assessment, studying factors such as classroom size and how teachers might organise social distancing between pupils, and any particular vulnerabilities within staff, such as diabetes which is now recognised as a specific risk.

Scientists and doctors have said that schools should reopen “where it is safe to do so” – saying that a robust test-and-trace regime is crucial. But testing for Covid-19 still remains very patchy around the country, with Cornwall still one of the least-tested areas.




Via Cornwall Reports

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