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Hackney teachers protest ‘dangerous’ early reopening of schools

PUBLISHED: 14:17 11 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:41 11 May 2020

The teachers protest in Hackney against the early reopening of schools. Picture: Submitted by Dean Ryan

The teachers protest in Hackney against the early reopening of schools. Picture: Submitted by Dean Ryan

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Teachers staged a protest in Hackney against the early reopening of schools while the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing.

The teachers protest in Hackney against the early reopening of schools. Picture: Submitted by Dean Ryan The teachers protest in Hackney against the early reopening of schools. Picture: Submitted by Dean Ryan

About 10 to 15 people from the Hackney branch of the National Education Union (NEU), local Labour Party members and people involved with Unison took a stand in a socially-distanced demonstration outside the Hackney Learning Trust on April 30.

They were asking the government to make sure pupils and teachers will not be called back onto school grounds before it is completely safe.

The protest lasted about 15 minutes before police officers dispersed the crowd.

This comes as prime minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday (May 10) that he hopes to allow Year 1 and Year 6 pupils back into school by June 1 at the earliest as part of a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions.

The teachers protest in Hackney against the early reopening of schools. Picture: Submitted by Dean Ryan The teachers protest in Hackney against the early reopening of schools. Picture: Submitted by Dean Ryan

In a speech broadcast to the nation, Mr Johnson said: “Our ambition is that secondary pupils facing exams next year will get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays.

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“And we will shortly be setting out detailed guidance on how to make it work in schools and shops and on transport.”

Protester Jane Bassett, membership officer of the Hackney NEU, told the Gazette: “Nobody wants to not be at school, but it has to be safe for children and their families and for staff for school to go back.

“I think it [Mr Johnson’s announcement] is shocking. Our national secretary’s immediate response was to say this is reckless in terms of safety.”

She described the plans as “worrying” and “dangerous”.

A nationwide petition calling on the government to give parents a choice on allowing their children back to school in June has reached 362,858 signatures.

Jane added: “Hackney has a large black and minority population and we know they are more at risk from the virus than other groups. We also have a large number of intergenerational households, where children live with their grandparents, and it is a huge concern that they would be coming into school, picking up the infection and taking that home.”

Jane highlighted it is difficult to maintain social distancing with children aged five and six in Year 1: “Children that young don’t understand, their natural instinct is to play and be physical and hug each other.”

This follows a demonstration on May 5, next to the Parkhaus development near Hackney Downs, calling for all nonessential construction sites to be shut down amid the pandemic.


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