On 20th May 2020, Lord Watson of Invergowrie asked the Government “what action they are taking to publish scientific evidence which (1) ensures the re-opening schools on 1 June will be safe for pupils, staff and parents, and (2) includes the impact on the (a) national, and (b) regional, reproduction rates (R number) of COVID-19“. The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Tim Dakin, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, as with many schools, Church of England schools have remained open during the lockdown for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. Our teachers are working extremely hard to provide educational and pastoral support to our students at this time of unprecedented challenge. Can the Minister confirm whether school leaders will be granted the discretion to reopen at a pace dictated by their local circumstances and context, considering the significant mental, spiritual, physical and social impact that the current situation is having on children, especially those from the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families?
Baroness Berridge: My Lords, school leaders, teachers and support staff are indeed concerned about the education of their children and have been undertaking risk assessments in relation to whether vulnerable children are better off at home or in a school setting. We are of course aware that each school building, as well as each cohort of students, is different, so in the current plans we have enabled head teachers and school leaders to have the discretion to include a child that they view as vulnerable who might not be in the categories that the Government have outlined, and indeed it is they who will be doing the risk assessments of their buildings. We trust those professionals to do this job, relying on the guidance that we have given them. Away from the headlines, many teachers, head teachers and support staff are planning in anticipation of being able to reopen on 1 June should the five tests be satisfied.