Parents will rethink concerns about schools in coming weeks, says former Education Secretary

1 June 2020, 15:23

By Seán Hickey

Schools nationwide were supposed to reopen today, this former Education Secretary understood why there may not be many students returning.

Shelagh Fogarty pointed out that "some schools have remained open throughout" the coronavirus pandemic and many parents and teachers have "lost faith with the government" and are "making their own conservative decisions" as to whether or not to return to schools amid fears the country is not ready for schools to reopen.

Baroness of Cotes Nicky Morgan has served as Education Secretary and she told Shelagh that she understands that there are concerns about the safety of reopening schools. She insisted that "with this virus around, until we have a vaccine there is no such thing as safe" and commended individuals for making their own decisions on whether in their individual cases it is safe to return.

Baroness Morgan added that for students and teachers that cannot return to school yet it is important that "we make sure those children or those staff still feel connected to their schools."

Shelagh wondered if there is support for households with one at-risk or shielding person, especially should that household have either a schoolchild or teacher that cannot return as a result. Baroness Morgan believed that there is support in place and if a member of staff has someone at risk at home they don't have to return.

She went on to point out that government support only goes so far, and described the importance of opening up conversations between employers and employees so individual cases are understood as the UK eases lockdown.

Baroness Morgan said individuals should decide themselves whether schools are safe enough
Baroness Morgan said individuals should decide themselves whether schools are safe enough. Picture: PA

Shelagh went into the fine print of what regulations are now around reopening schools. "If a child in a classroom goes down with Covid is that it- school closed?" Baroness Morgan said that this wouldn't be the case, as the track and trace system will help monitor cases and will mean blanket lockdowns will be redundant.

She described the situation in schools moving forward, telling Shelagh that "they've got small groups of students together with a teacher" and this will reduce transmission to smaller groups of people. The former Education Secretary stressed the importance of the track and trace system in this approach, telling Shelagh that now it is vital that people listen to the advice if they receive the call to self-isolate.

Shelagh pushed the subject of self-isolation with Baroness Morgan, asking about the implications on a household should their child be sent home to isolate for coming in contact with coronavirus. Baroness Morgan stressed that "we're all relying on each other" and it is crucial that the track and trace system is obeyed by people if we are to effectively operate outside of lockdown.

"It is a tentative step today" Baroness Morgan stated, "it's not go back to life as normal as it was at the end of February, beginning of March because that's not what we're going back to."

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