Safe return to school isn’t helped by guff from MPs | Letters

Kevin McCready on outspoken Conservative MPs’ lack of expertise, Ian Richardson on Boris Johnson’s vague words, and an anonymous teacher’s fears about the thousands of community contacts that she and her family will share

Re your report (Boris Johnson drops advice against face mask use in English schools, 25 August), I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I saw comments from MPs such as Marcus Fysh (“The country should be getting back to normal, not pandering to this scientifically illiterate guff”), Sir Desmond Swayne, who opposed making the wearing of face coverings in shops mandatory (“Was Boris reprogrammed by aliens?”), and Huw Merriman, who says masks in schools would “further downgrade the learning environment”.

I can only assume that their respective careers, in asset management, computing and the military, and the law, uniquely place them to go against the advice of the World Health Organization. Or maybe they subscribe to the Michael Gove school of thought, believing “we’ve had enough of experts”.

Advice does change and evolve as the scientific community learns more about this virus. However, MPs should acknowledge this fact rather than making ill-informed statements regarding “illiterate guff”. If they really want all students and staff back in the learning environment, working in a socially distanced safe setting, maybe they could investigate setting up Nightingale annexes for schools and recruiting newly retired and student teachers. This will provide the extra resource that the education system desperately needs, in addition to adding some weight to this government’s claim to be “levelling up” the country.
Kevin McCready

• Your coverage of the twin challenges in education presented by the exam results fiasco and the return to classrooms early next month was illuminating. Justine Greening’s voice carries some authority. She is almost certainly right to claim that Gavin Williamson would have known the implications for more disadvantaged students, well before having the mendacity to blame others or errant algorithms (Justine Greening: exams crisis could be Boris Johnson’s Black Wednesday, 25 August).

A similar straw man argument unsurprisingly came from the prime minister when he claimed the moral high ground in demanding full returns to schools and colleges. Of course, this is precisely what nearly all parents, students, teachers and heads also want.

Yet, as was well-demonstrated by another report (Headteachers launch stinging criticism of education secretary, 24 August), they know that to safely reopen schools and, crucially, to re-establish confidence, is a huge task requiring far more than the vague words that are often the prime minister’s only contribution to all difficult issues. As a parent of a year 4 pupil, due to go back to school next week, I have full confidence that her headteacher will make well-informed decisions, grounded in compassion and wisdom, when deciding how to safely manage the welfare of all children and adults in her care. If only Johnson or Williamson could show any of those qualities, we might all better face the coming challenges of autumn.
Ian Richardson
Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire

• I woke from a bad dream in the night. My husband and I teach at schools with 1,500-plus pupils. Two of our children go to the same school with 1,500 students and my son is starting at a college with 3,000. That’s 7,500 plus community contacts between us.

I don’t want to trigger anxiety in my children, but we are going to have to talk to them about strictly no physical contact at school or on the way home, and regular use of hand sanitiser gel (as access to sinks will be limited), no public transport, except in an emergency, showers on return from school and all clothes in the wash every day. What do you think are the chances of my three usually compliant teens sticking to these rules? Wish me luck.
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