A UNION has lambasted plans to re-open primary schools next week, claiming the move is aimed at getting parents back to work rather than helping pupils’ education.

Southend Unison believes the Government’s target of re-opening schools for more groups of children from Monday cannot achieve the level of social distancing and personal protection needed to safeguard staff, families and the community.

The union adds it is concerned that while Southend area Covid-19 infections are slowing down, they are still present in the community.

Claire Wormald, Southend Unison branch secretary said: “There’s nothing our members in schools would like better than to get back to supporting children in schools alongside teachers.

“But we can’t accept a return that is too early and seems to be aimed at getting parents back to work rather than helping children’s education.

“There is a huge risk to returning large numbers of children to school. They are likely to infect each other as well as staff and at the end of each day they will return home and potentially spread the virus back into the community, undoing all the work we have all had to do to maintain the lockdown.”

In a statement, the union said: “At the current level of infection in the community we believe it is likely to prove impossible to create a level of safety in schools which is acceptable.

“Social distancing will be almost impossible to maintain with groups of very young children and we already have concerns over the availability of resources such as no information about the PPE and other measures which would be needed to protect support staff who have the closest physical contact with children.

“Staff certainly don’t do the job for the money or the prestige, but they are vital to delivering services in our schools and they are often the people who work most closely with individual children.

“We don’t want to see them sacrificed to ‘getting back to work’, we don’t want to see their families endangered and we don’t want to see schools make a much-feared ‘second wave’ of coronavirus more likely.

“It’s too soon to reopen schools for all our sakes. We will support any member who faces unsafe working conditions. That’s why Unison is calling on schools not to reopen until September.”

Primary schools are likely re-open “at the earliest” on June 1, as part of Boris Johnson’s conditional plan for reopening the UK.

It will begin with the youngest pupils in Reception and Year 1, plus Year 6.

Some schools across the country have said they cannot ensure safety and will not be opening.

Secondary pupils taking exams next year may get time with their teachers before the holidays.

Anne Jones, Southend Labour councillor responsible for children and learning said: “A letter was sent to headteachers saying they should open when it is safe to do so.”

“I can’t speak for most schools. We don’t have jurisdiction over them as most are academies.”