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Letter from a frontline teacher on the full reopening of schools

A Worker’s Party supporter writes from the classroom frontline: continuing to put children and the staff who care for them in harm’s way is a national scandal.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that Britain’s children should be in school. Britain’s children should be in school as, for many of our young people, their schools are the only safe havens they know.

Their parents and carers are often unable to adequately provide for them owing to factors such as the ever-decreasing opportunities for stable, sufficiently paid employment, a positively Dickensian benefits system and the continual dismantling of the public sector.

This last reason is precisely why schools are so important: owing to the reckless policies of successive governments, spurred on by the demonical death-drive of capitalism, throughout Britain on a daily basis, schools act as local triage centres, diagnosing the severe issues too many of our children have developed as a direct result of the profound economic inequality and hardship found throughout the nation.

However, it should not be seen as an extreme position that ignores the plight of children and their families to argue that schools should only reopen fully (for it is important to note that schools have been open for students who meet certain criteria throughout lockdown) following the implementation of adequate safety measures.

In spite of the large signs seen across the country extolling the virtues of social distancing, this vital safety measure is not to be found in Britain’s classrooms. And it is not only the lack of social distancing which is an issue in schools.

Many of the other safety measures found in educational settings do not hold up under scrutiny, thereby arguably making risk assessments not worth the paper they are printed on. Bubbles may work well for professional sports teams, with the movements of athletes fully accounted for, but year-group bubbles at schools are impossible for staff to enforce outside of the school day.

There are also big question marks over mass testing, repeatedly pushed as the panacea that will enable all children to return safely to school. Academics like Jon Deeks have questioned the efficacy of lateral flow tests as a meaningful way to detect those with Covid-19. Notwithstanding the scientific concerns, given that the tests are to be voluntary and administered at home, the idea that testing will negate the need for all other measures is clearly nonsense.

When the pandemic started last March, it should have been a wake-up call for the government to invest in schools. If schools had received sufficient funding, they could have hired more staff and undertaken building work in order make social distancing measures an achievable reality. Extra funding would also have enabled schools to provide their staff with high quality PPE and more than one bottle of cheap disinfectant per classroom.

This lack of meaningful action makes it hard to take the government’s hollow rhetoric about their concern for children’s welfare seriously, especially when many of the issues children experience at home are arguably a direct result of their own economic policies.

The Labour party has done nothing to help either. Despite the name of his party, Keir Starmer has explicitly refused to back strike action by a workforce who find themselves thrust into unsafe environments, thereby ignoring valid concerns regarding the safety of everyone within school communities across the country he hopes one day to govern.

Where then, should those of us who work in education look to for support in the political sphere? The answer is simple: the Workers Party of Britain has been the only political party throughout this entire pandemic to have recognised the plight of keyworkers and to have tirelessly campaigned for safe, Covid-secure workplaces for everyone in the country.

Therefore, I implore school staff (and indeed workers everywhere) who feel abandoned during this time to join the Workers Party. The Workers Party is the only political party that is fully committed to providing high-quality, free, lifelong education and vocational training.

The Workers Party of Britain is the only political party that is fully committed to ending the deep-rooted causes of the issues so many children face by providing their parents and carers with useful, secure jobs in decent conditions (and indeed decent, cheap, secure housing in which they can live).

In short, the Workers Party of Britain is the only political party that has a genuine concern for the welfare our nation’s children and is truly committed to improving their lives.

Children should be in school. But in one of the world’s richest nations, putting children and the staff who care for them in harm’s way, purely for want of adequate funding, should not be seen as something we have to accept: it should be seen as the scandal it truly is.

RO, London