A DENTON headteacher has been applauded for his threat to withdraw places to keyworkers’ children if they continue to break lockdown rules.
Steve Marsland, head at Russell Scott Primary, wrote to all parents of the 460 children with a stark warning, after hearing youngsters talking of hot tub parties, barbecues and ‘mini raves’ in back gardens.The contents of the letter, aimed at a small minority of families who he says are putting others at risk, were widely publicised in local media and Mr Marsland has received widespread support.
“I have been inundated with calls which have all been extremely positive. They have also come from other headteachers, not only from Tameside but throughout Greater Manchester wanting to discuss it as they were facing similar issues,” he explained.
Mr Marsland concluded his letter to parents: “If this situation occurs again an assessment of risk will be undertaken to assess the circumstances with the potential risk to others resulting in the child’s place being withdrawn.
“Your actions are endangering others. Please help keep us all safe by upholding the law and abiding by the social distancing rules.”
In his letter, Mr Marsland pointed out the need to respect lockdown guidelines as Tameside has one of the highest Covid-19 contagion rates in the country.
And in the light of those statistics – 28.7 infections per 100,000 people, the highest in Greater Manchester and compared to an English average of 9.2 for the same period – Mr Marsland backed the decision to delay reopening schools in the borough.
Mr Marsland continued: “Given those alarming figures it was a decision I agreed with.
“At the same time Tameside hospitals are full to capacity and struggling to cope, contagion rates are higher in our area than the rest of the country and the R number is higher than it was when we first went into lockdown.
“In school we are doing everything we possibly can making sure children are socially distancing, regularly washing their hands, cleaning staff wiping down all frequently touched surfaces throughout the day, individual seating plans for children, personal resources, hand sanitiser available in every space across school and we are being chemically fogged every week to reduce the risks.
“It was very disappointing to listen to children in school talking about visiting each other’s houses to play, having parties with wider families mixing with multiple households and totally ignoring the socially distancing laws that are in place because Covid-19 is killing people.
“We are in an area of high contagion, where schools have been advised against wider opening because of the increased dangers in Tameside and some key worker families are heightening that risk.
“As a school we need to assure ourselves that children, who are accessing our facilities so their parents can go to work, are not putting the wider school community at risk by ignoring the social distancing rules and advice when at home.
“I’m sure you will agree that we have come too far to allow the schools overall safety to be undermined by families ignoring the law and endangering others.”
That was followed by the warning children’s places could potentially be withdrawn.
Mr Marsland told The Correspondent: “Children, who have not had social interaction, come in and tell each other what they have been doing – dancing with friends and hot tub parties while you hear from parents what they have seen looking over the fence
“The next day they are at school where they have to observe two metre social-distancing and hand washing.
“And it is clear for a small minority the only times they are adhering to Government guidelines is in school.”
Mr Marsland fears there will be a second time in the wake of recent large gatherings, especially two raves in Greater Manchester which attracted about 6,000 people.
“The next thing they are back in work, college or school and next to mums and dads, brothers and sisters who have chosen to adhere to a law to keep everyone safe,” he said.
Schools in Tameside had been ready to welcome back children in nursery, year one and year six on Monday, June 15 in line with Government guidelines.
But this was put back one week following fears from Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, Tameside Council’s director of population health about the R value being above the critical value of 1. It was 1.01 when she made her ruling on June 5 to delay the reopening,
Mr Marsland added it has been “extremely challenging” preparing for a return to schooling.
And if the two-metre social distancing rules remains, he added it will be impossible to welcome back all 460 pupils.
He said: “We have narrow classrooms and we would need six classrooms for each year group of 60 children.
“Teachers are also doing a juggling act preparing for home and in-school learning.
“It is a huge task and commitment, but teachers are doing their best bearing in mind the strategies employed by the Government.
“If you look at the logistics, it will be impossible given the guidance to have all children in school.”
Mr Marsland, a headteacher for 25 years, added he received 40 pieces of guidance over reopening over a 10-day period.
He added his job is to create a “protective bubble” the school community which numbers almost 500 with their health and safety his priority, adding it is “quite a burden”.
He said: All the children have mums and dads, nanas and granddads, aunts and uncles so there is a wider influence.
“I am trying to point out some are making the wrong choices, but those choices affect greater numbers than themselves so don’t be selfish.
“We have all struck together during lockdown, but things are slowly unravelling. And if we don’t adhere the danger is that we will go back to square one.”