Hackney Schools: Black Lives Matter

**Please sign the letter below**

We the undersigned are Labour Party members and Hackney residents, concerned about the impact of the premature push back to school from the government (which we believe is in order to facilitate pushing people back to work) and the impact this will have on our communities in Hackney, and in particular our BAME communities. The BMA has warned that this could cause a second spike of infections; millions of parents around the UK do not wish to send children back at this point and are boycotting school.

We welcome the news on Tuesday that the Government has been forced to say that all primarily school children will not be back this term, and share the fear that the early push back for some will have severe health implications.

We are asking that given the current situation - the volte face of the government; the fact that the track, trace and test is not soundly in place; questions over the still high infection rate; and the refusal of so many parents to return children to school - the council will work very closely with education unions on alternative accessible provision and digital parity for children. And that the council will immediately issue a much stronger statement advising against the further opening of schools in the summer term.

The Independent SAGE group of scientists and medics has argued strongly for delay in the wider reopening of schools and against the Government's push for primary age year groups to return from last week. The estimate of the 'R' number (Public Health England/Cambridge University) released last Friday, suggests that across London it has, in fact, risen again recently and sits in a range from 0.7 to 1.2 (so above the critical '1').

This means that Hackney schools shouldn’t be considering inviting more pupils back until the NEU’s #FiveTests have been met. In particular we need a local system to test, track and isolate fully up and running. Ways need to be found to protect BAME pupils and their families, including ensuring that students don’t have to use public transport to get to school and college when it is not safe to do so. If schools get this wrong, parents will not forgive or forget.

The global Black Lives Matter protests highlight the twin pandemics of racism and COVID19 and the need for justice. We urge you to do what you can to ensure that Hackney Council takes a stand like so many other local authorities, including Newham whose Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, said publicly that without testing and tracking in place, and in view of the fact the borough suffers disproportionately from the virus; is so ethically diverse with high poverty and inequality rates and has so many multi-generational households; and with lack of social distancing; the impact of schools opening at the beginning of June was too risky.

When the question if schools should reopen was put to Independent SAGE scientists at the Hackney Health Scrutiny Committee, 9 June - which talked about the inequalities in health in lower income and BAME communities and risk in the borough of those living in multi-generational households, the scientists said that there was a huge problem with lack of data to determine this and lack of testing, tracking and tracing. They strongly advised looking at alternatives for summer schooling including outdoor schools so that children do not lose out on months of education.

Hackney has suffered the third highest death rate in the whole of the UK. We need a statement to protect the public and make Black Lives Matter more than a slogan.

Yours sincerely

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