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Headteacher warns 'staff safety is at risk' ahead of schools return

Staff safety is at risk if schools go back as planned at the start of next month, a headteacher has warned.

Dave Rooney, executive head at Lowbrook Academy in Cox Green and Holy Trinity School in Cookham, has raised concerns over the Government’s plan to ease children back into education.

Schools have been asked to prepare for more children from June 1 as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s three-step plan to get the country out of the coronavirus lockdown.

The priority age groups would be early years settings, reception, year one, and year six, in smaller sizes.

Mr Rooney said that he is ‘keen’ to open for more pupils, but wants it done in a safe way.

His main concerns are around the safety of adult staff, who may catch COVID-19 from pupils, the lack of classroom space when social distancing, and shortage of staff.

Mr Rooney also said it is ‘difficult’ for younger children to remain 2m apart and has asked the Department for Education (DfE) for more ‘science’.

The DfE has published safety guidance for schools, including limiting class sizes, regular cleaning, and keeping to small groups.

“Schools have been open throughout this whole pandemic.

“We have not closed. We have been open for key workers' children and provided a high standard of education for those at home,” Mr Rooney said.

“But we do have concerns regarding the safety of the children, and largely the staff.

“Yes, we want to open – we are as keen as mustard to open for more pupils – but it has to be done in a safe way.

“We want to move cautiously, but we do not want to put staff and children at risk. It is as simple as that.”

He added: “Social distancing four and five year olds is extremely difficult.

“[And] to social distance in one of my classrooms I can only get six children in, and in the largest classroom, 12 children.

“We are waiting on the DfE as to why they have not published any of the science about the transmission rate from children to staff.

“That is a concern for us. It is very important we get this right.”

Teachers have not been recommended to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) by the Government, unless a child shows COVID-19 symptoms.

Mr Rooney added: “I am sitting here in the office with no gloves, no mask and a cup of coffee.

“We are sourcing our own hand sanitiser and have an OK supply of that, but the Government has recommended that we do not use PPE.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Nothing can replace being in the classroom, which is why I want to get children back to school as soon as it is safe.

“The latest scient-ific advice indicates it will be safe for more children to return from June 1, but we will continue to limit the overall numbers in school and introduce protective measures to prevent transmission.

“This marks the first step towards having all young people back where they belong, but we will only take further steps when the time is right.”

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