Thanks to Zoom, I had the opportunity at a local Constituency Labour Party General Committee meeting last Friday, to thank the First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS in person. He had taken the decision not to allow any further staged reopening of schools from the 1st of June until further notice. Here in Wales, the Welsh Government does consult. It takes the advice of the teacher unions and the scientific community seriously – concerning keeping children and school staff safe. How to mitigate and control this coronavirus pandemic is a very problematic issue but the answer is not to gamble with children’s wellbeing, as the Westminster Government is trying to do.
We have witnessed the insulting of concerned teachers by Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education in England, who called them scaremongers. We have witnessed Multi Academy Trusts instructing staff to prepare for re-opening Academy Schools on the 1st of June. It must be frightening and risky at the moment for all front line staff in transport, retail, schools, health and social care institutions to work throughout this pandemic.
On Sunday May 10th and Monday 11th, Boris Johnson announced his government’s decision to have a staged return to work and the fuller re-opening of schools. He did so, knowing that his government had not consulted properly the representatives of the teacher unions, the medical profession (BMA), local authorities and the devolved governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Right-wing Press are making out that return is for the good of vulnerable children (an issue that never bothered them in the past). Clearly child protection is a distressing matter. The First Minister confirmed that money is available for school meals throughout the term and the school holidays for all deprived children in Wales. Further at a recent School Governors’ meeting here in Cardiff (via Zoom) the Headteacher announced that he and the Deputy were taking part in a staff rota to teach the children of key workers and vulnerable children. He also said that the uptake for school meals had increased considerably.
Clearly, the UK is not united over how to handle this crisis. Here in Wales the Stay at Home slogan is still operative until at least the end of this month, when a further review will take place. The Tories need to understand that steamrolling people back to work and children back to school could cost them their health and possibly their lives. They are trying to get the economy going (and their profits rising) at the expense of working class children and their parents.
Chris Newman, SEA Cymru