As we draw to the end of Mental Health Week it is worth considering what impact the proposed openings of schools will have on the very young children that are being proposed as the first returners. Many of us will have seen the photos from France which shows children sitting in marked out spaces, not being allowed to follow their natural instinct which is to play closely with friends and potentially being taught by teachers wearing masks. Everything we know about children’s learning at that age is that it is play based, something which in this current situation is impossible to achieve. So what purpose in sending these young children back, to learn to be fearful and to be told ‘don’t do that’?

The government is putting teachers in an impossible situation which can only lead to more harm than good. Schools are already providing an invaluable service to all children by staying open for key worker children, for at risk children and a provision for those who can be at home also. Aside from the obvious risks of herd immunity, which is guided by the principle of economy over people, there is also a clear mental health crisis that they are guiding our children into with this move. The teaching unions are the experts in education, the parents are experts in their children. Both parties are saying it is too soon and the government and local authorities should heed their warnings. I applaud our Labour councillors for standing with parents and unions and hope to see others stand up for what is right too.

Elisa Vasquez-Walters
Chair, Colchester CLP

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