To reopen or not to fully reopen our schools? That is the question facing many teachers and parents. Whilst the better funded profit-making academies are busy backing Government plans, the teachers’ unions and the doctors’ British Medical Association voiced serious concerns. Against this, children’s educational development, especially for those less well off, is being impacted.

There are number of issues. The first is over the scientific evidence. The government is reluctant to be transparent. Released documents have large portions blanked out. The fact that the Chief Scientific Advisor at Education told the Commons select committee that he was not consulted about the plans is worrying. Is the reopening about education or freeing up parents to go back to work?

The second is underfunding. Conservative Hampshire has decided to keep all schools open for key workers etc including over some holidays. Hampshire does not allow its schools to cluster allowing them to combine into single site to provide for a much reduced number of pupils. The promised additional government funding for extra staff costs has failed to materialise. We have been told to use our supply teacher budget; but we do not have one! In any case it would be insufficient. State schools in Andover, already facing significant deficits due to Government underfunding, are expected to pick up the tab for additional Covid-19 expenditure. This is not fair on our community.

Finally, I would stress the issue of confidence. Many parents could have sent their children to school over the last couple of months but decided to keep them safe at home. Many teachers and staff or their family members are vulnerable. I have been impressed with the plans I have seen by schools to fully reopen. However, the use of one-way systems and careful social distancing, difficult enough in a supermarket, is not easy in schools. People need to have confidence and it is telling that polls suggest most people oppose lifting too many lockdown restrictions too soon.

To move forward on reopening schools two things are essential: cover schools’ additional costs, and transparency over the scientific advice so that parents and teachers can have more confidence in what they are told to do. We are not donkeys!

Luigi Gregori, Charlton Road, Andover