Saturday 06 June 2020

Teachers critical of idea to let children return to school in May


Teachers have voiced concern about plans to reopen schools in the first week of May if the coronavirus outbreak is under control.

Prime minister Mark Rutte suggested last week there could be a ‘phased reintroduction’ of children from May 4, with those at risk of falling behind teenagers in their final year getting priority. Many schools have a two-week break scheduled and would not return until May 11.

Ideas included dropping children off at the school gates instead of in the playground or classroom and dividing classes into smaller groups to ensure pupils keep 1.5 metres apart.

‘I hope the schools are starting to think – as I believe is happening – about what the 1.5-metre school might look like,’ Rutte said in his weekly press conference last Thursday.

But a survey of 5,000 teachers by the professional association AOb said many of the ideas were impractical. ‘Schools aren’t designed for people to keep their distance and they see many practical problems such as the need to walk around the class, transportation for children in special education and hygiene measures for the youngest groups in primary school,’ said the organisation.

‘Teaching 30 four-year-olds to sneeze into their elbows and keep away from each other is utopian, let alone asking the teacher to keep their distance,’ added Eugenie Stolk, chair of the AOb.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of primary school teachers said they were already having problems keeping to the 1.5 metre rule in classrooms where children of essential workers are being looked after in the daytime.

‘Some teachers see it as an experiment and are angry that the government is thinking about opening schools when so much is still unclear,’ the AOb said.

The public health agency RIVM is due to publish a study on how children transmit coronavirus which will feed into the government’s next update on the lockdown measures, due to be announced on April 21.

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