Opening schools in June "too soon"- government must convince public otherwise

4 May 2020, 15:58

By Seán Hickey

In advance of a lockdown strategy being released by government, parents have shown concern over how soon schools are reopening.

Jane Merrick is policy editor at the I newspaper and she joined Shelagh Fogarty to discuss news of schools reopening in June, with concerns that it might be a premature reaction from government.

Shelagh acknowledged that there are "so many unanswered questions" before the public can confidently rally around the government and their lockdown reversal.

Ms Merrick began by telling Shelagh that as a working mum, she is finding it difficult to manage her child's education and her own work. "I'm not a teacher, I can't do a good job of teaching her while working."

The policy editor pointed out that the government had "such an effective campaign to tell people to stay at home" that they already have a lot of work to do to convince the public to come out of isolation and lockdown. "They've kind of got to undo that while also not uncorking the bottle" she cautioned, mentioning the danger of people interpreting this as a free pass to go back to normal.

Ultimately, Ms Merrick told Shelagh that the government have "got to win the confidence of parents and teachers that they're not doing this too quickly", which is already the worry of many parents. "It does feel a little too soon" she said.

Parents aren't confident that the UK is ready to reopen schools
Parents aren't confident that the UK is ready to reopen schools. Picture: PA

Hinting at her own reservations, Ms Merrick told Shelagh that the R number is too close to one for parents to be confident in sending their children to school, as it may be the start of a second wave. "We're gonna have to see more to get the death rate down" before public confidence is behind the government strategy.

Shelagh saw the danger in the strategy, stating that "if people are being encouraged to go back to work again then it's very easy to see the R number over 1 again."

Ms Merrick agreed, pointing out that "it just feels like we need more evidence that the five tests are being met" before parents commit to putting their children at risk of spreading coronavirus. "It's about proving the data but also winning hearts and minds of parents and teachers" the journalist told Shelagh.

Shelagh sounded lost for words by the back and forth of the government policies. "You get the feeling that this is a bit of kite flying" she said. "They know for it to work people like you need to buy into it and feel they can safely send their children to school again" but in order to do that, in Shelagh's view, the government must throw out the idea for scrutiny before they commit to the decision.

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