Thursday, May 14, 2020

Layla Moran wants evidence backing school reopening published

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat leadership candidate and education spokesperson, has called for the scientific advice underpinning the decision to start reopening England's schools from 1 June to be published.

Her move follows a worrying appearance in front of the Commons science and technology committee by Osama Rahman, the Department for Education's chief scientific adviser.

As BBC News reports:
Osama Rahman said the decision to reopen schools was not made by the DfE. 
When asked what assessment he had made, as the chief scientific adviser for the department, of how effective guidance on safe reopening of schools was and how it might be implemented, he said: "I haven't." 
The advice recommends social distancing in classrooms, with reduced class sizes and keeping small children in groups to limit potential virus spread. 
He was also unable to point to any evidence behind the decision to reopen schools in a way that could be said to be safe. 
He also told MPs that there was doubt over suggestions that children are less likely transmit the virus than adults, explaining there was only "low confidence" in that theory. 
He agreed that reopening schools was "putting together hundreds of potential vectors" of the virus who could then go and spread it in the community.
In a letter to Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's top scientific and medical advisers, Layla says:
"The decision that has been taken, to reopen schools as early as 1 June, has caused a great deal of concern amongst school leaders, teachers and many parents.
"We need reassurance from the government that this decision was taken purely on public health grounds, and not due to economic fears." 
"I hope you agree that we have some work to do in reassuring parents, staff and pupils that opening schools in a few short weeks time is the right thing to do and that publishing all the advice pertaining to this is an important step in this debate."
There is a lot of work to do in reassuring people, particularly as the suspicion is growing that the government is not so much following the science as pressurising scientists to come up with advice that matches its political imperatives.

And the growing appeals to "common sense" mean the government is now putting the onus for decision making on to the public, with the implication that it will be our fault if things go wrong.

I have seen calls today for teachers to "show courage". But if it takes courage for people simply to go to work, it is too soon to reopen our schools.

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