A leading member of Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet has said she would not feel happy sending her child back to school on 1 June unless ministers provide more evidence that it is safe.
The recovery strategy set out by Boris Johnson on Monday envisages primary schools reopening their doors to pupils as early as the start of next month, with reception classes, year one and year six the first to return.
Asked whether she would allow her own six-year-old son back, the Oxford East MP told BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour: “I would be more than happy to send my own child to school if I knew that by doing so I would not be potentially harming others. That’s the critical issue for me.
“And we don’t have that evidence, I feel, currently.”
Presenter Jane Garvey pressed her: “So that’s a No?”
Ms Dodds replied: “Well, I don’t feel that I have that evidence now. If government was able to provide that, particularly to publish the scientific information underlying its decisions, we could be in a different situation.
“As I say, it’s not really about my family. It’s about whether we are spreading this disease more broadly. We don’t have that evidence in front of us now.”
Schools across the UK have been closed to most pupils since 20 March because of fears they would become a route for Covid-19 infection, though facilities have remained available for vulnerable children and the sons and daughters of key workers who are unable to secure alternative childcare arrangements.
Under Mr Johnson’s plans, a staggered reopening of primary schools would see all under-12s get at least a month’s education before the summer holidays. Secondary pupils in years 10 and 12 would be provided with “face-to-face” time with teachers ahead of the summer break, but other secondary classes will not return before September.
The announcement has caused concern among teachers, some of whom have raised questions about whether it will be possible to keep primary-age children socially distanced in classrooms and playgrounds.
One teacher called Natasha, from Richmond, confronted Mr Johnson when he took questions from the public on TV on Monday evening, asking him: "How is it logical that I as a primary school teacher can mix with many returning children, but seeing my relatives is still not allowed?"
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