Schools in areas with above-average black and ethnic minority populations should be allowed to re-open later, councils say
- Some areas have a higher risk of Covid-19, says Local Government Association
- Official data shows black men and women are four times more likely to die from coronavirus-related death than white people
- LGA says Government should urgently publish scientific evidence underpinning decision to reopen England’s schools to more pupils from June 1
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Schools in areas where there is a higher proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) residents should be allowed to open later, council leaders have said.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for some schools in England to be given greater flexibility over reopening as they argue some communities are at higher risk of Covid-19.
Official data shows that black men and women are more than four times more likely to die from a coronavirus-related death than white people.
The LGA is calling for councils to be given more powers to close schools if testing indicates clusters of new Covid-19 cases.
Schools in areas where there is a higher proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) residents should be allowed to open later, councils have said. The Local Government Association is calling for some schools in England to be given greater flexibility over reopening as they argue some communities are at higher risk of Covid-19. (Posed by models)
The Government has faced increasing pressure from education union leaders and MPs to release the science behind its plans to send children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back to school from next month. (Stock image)
And it says the Government should urgently publish the scientific evidence underpinning the decision to reopen England’s schools to more pupils from June 1.
The Government has faced increasing pressure from education union leaders and MPs to release the science behind its plans to send children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back to school from next month.
Osama Rahman, chief scientific adviser at the Department for Education (DfE), said that there was a ‘low degree of confidence’ in evidence suggesting that children transmit Covid-19 less than adults.
Mr Rahman also told MPs on Wednesday that it was not the DfE’s decision to reopen schools in England to three primary school year groups from June 1. He said it was decided by the Cabinet.
Former Labour education secretary Lord Blunkett said he was ‘surprised’ by union leaders’ attitude towards reopening schools. ‘I am being deeply critical of the attitude. It’s about how can we work together to make it work as safely as possible. Anyone who works against that in my view is working against the interests of children,’ he said
Education unions said they are due to attend a briefing on Friday afternoon with the Government’s scientific advisers to go through the decision to reopen schools in England.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: ‘We agree with the LGA that publication of the scientific advice is vital to help provide reassurance to the public.’
Black people up to four times more likely to die from Covid than white people, figures show
Black people are four times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people, according to figures released in early May.
Government statisticians analysed the number of all Covid 19-related fatalities in England and Wales between March 2 and April 10.
Data showed the risk of dying from the coronavirus was ‘significantly’ higher among some ethnic groups compared to white people, when age was taken into account.
After accounting for health conditions and differences in factors such as income, the risk for black people was still almost twice as high.
The reasons behind the findings remain largely ‘unexplained’, said the Office for National Statistics, which collected the data.
The report did not look into whether people from BAME backgrounds are more likely to be infected in the first place.
It comes amid an urgent Number 10 investigation into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic Britons.
She added: ‘We have concerns that a wider opening of schools, too early, poses a lot of unanswered questions about the risks in poor communities.
‘The DfE has not done nearly enough thinking about the emerging evidence about the racial disparities of the epidemic and what it means for schools with diverse pupil populations.’
Appearing on Radio 4’s Today programme with Dr Bousted on Thursday, former Labour education secretary Lord Blunkett said he was ‘surprised’ by union leaders’ attitude towards reopening schools.
He said: ‘I am being deeply critical of the attitude. It’s about how can we work together to make it work as safely as possible. Anyone who works against that in my view is working against the interests of children.’
He added that while middle-class children are continuing to learn during lockdown, it is pupils from the most deprived families who are missing out.
‘The children of the highly educated, of the well-off, of the better informed have been getting some form of education over the last few weeks,’ he said.
‘It’s only one in seven of the most vulnerable children who are actually getting educated … some children are actually getting nothing.’
Meanwhile, Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: ‘We know parents are anxious about sending their children back to school or nursery.
‘Plans to reopen schools and early years settings must focus on reassuring parents that it will be safe for children to return to school.
‘Publication of the scientific advice is vital to help provide that reassurance. The safety of staff, parents and families is absolutely paramount.’
The Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy said its ambition was for all primary school children to return to school before the summer holidays for a month ‘if feasible’.
But the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), whose members are mainly in primary schools, has advised school leaders not to plan for a full reopening from July at present.
On Wednesday, MP Layla Moran, the education spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, called on the Government to publish all the scientific advice that informed the decision to reopen schools.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘When you have medical and scientific advice that is saying it’s the right time to start bringing schools back in a phased and controlled manner, it seems only the right thing to do and the only responsible thing to do.’
Addressing MPs in the House of Commons, the minister said he was ‘more than happy’ to share the advice they had received from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
He added that he had asked scientific advisers ‘to give briefings’ to the sector to help them understand the decision behind reopening schools.
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