Mayor says 'no' to June 1 re-opening for Doncaster schools

Doncaster’s mayor says schools and nurseries in the borough should not open on June 1.

By David Kessen
Friday, 22nd May 2020, 4:15 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd May 2020, 6:18 pm

Mayor Ros Jones made the recommendation after discussions with teachers and parents revealed concerns about localised Covid 19 statistics, availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), and a lack of understanding of capacity within schools.

A survey run of parents views in the borough this week revealed 74 per cent of the 9,500 respondents said they would need reassurance on what the local levels of transmission of Covid 19 were in Doncaster before they would consider sending their child back to school.

A total of 46 per cent cited PPE access as something they are concerned about; 48 per cent wanted more information on measures being taken to keep schools clean and disinfected; and 46 per cent demanded smaller class sizes.

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Astrea Academy Woodfields, Balby. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-09-10-18-AstreaWoodfields-1

A total of 74 per cent of respondents who have children in nursery, reception, Y1 and Y6 said they did not intend to send their children to school if they re-opened on June 1. The survey found key worker parents and carers were concerned about more children returning to school, with a significant number saying they may be less inclined to send their children to school if more were attending.

Regarding Personal Protective Equipment for teachers and sanitising equipment for staff and children, the council says it is working closely with schools to support them to source all of the relevant PPE.

Although officials are confident they can get this to schools by June 1, the more specialist sanitising equipment – such as hand washing stations – will take longer.

Mrs Jones also has concerns over capacity and said the word ‘reopening’ is very misleading in the circumstances, as schools have been open throughout the past nine weeks for key worker children and those classed as ‘vulnerable’.

She said: “It is important that these children continue to be prioritised by our schools in coming months. In order to do this, there will be a significant impact on school capacity and the number of children who will be able to safely return under the Government’s physical distancing guidance. Schools have been working hard on these calculations, and working with children in the ‘vulnerable’ category to get them into school. Over recent weeks, we have seen a significant increase in the number of key worker and vulnerable children attending school and we expect this trend to continue so ensuring we can cater for them in maximum capacity numbers is vital.”

“I am clearly recommending to schools and nurseries that they do not reopen on June 1. It is of course an autonomous matter for schools and nurseries as they make their own decisions but I hope they will listen to parents and carers and unilaterally agree not to reopen at the beginning of June.

“I will continue to work closely with all parties to monitor the situation and keep this recommendation under constant review but for now the best thing for Doncaster is for schools to remain open only for key worker and vulnerable children.”