I have been contacted by a number of constituents with concerns regarding the safety of pupils, parents, staff, and the wider community.
I believe that there are serious problems with the Government’s proposed plan to reopen schools on 1 June.
We all want to see schools re-open for pupils’ education and wellbeing, but I am concerned the Government guidance so far fails to provide assurances that this can be done safely. I am concerned there is no information about how social distancing will work in classrooms and schools more widely. The guidance also fails to outline how school staff, pupils and parents will be protected from the virus, and gives no evidence as to the decision to select some year groups over others to return at the beginning of June.
In the last couple of weeks, I have held a number of virtual calls with headteachers of secondary and primary schools across Manchester Gorton to hear their concerns about implementing this re-opening. Following these meetings, I raised a series of questions with the Department for Education to which I am still awaiting answers.
I have also written directly to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, to raise concerns around access and uptake of free school meals, access to online learning for students with limited or no internet at home, and the future of standardised testing given the impact of this crisis on learning.
In the absence of clear scientific advice and a safety plan the Government has not demonstrated it is in a position to start planning for the wider safe opening of schools, or given any reassurance to parents, teachers and pupils that they will be safe.
I, along with my Labour Party colleagues, have urged the Government to work collaboratively with trade unions and parents’ organisations to create a series of practical safety concerns that must be addressed before any re-opening. And, when schools do return, I believe it is vital that a package of pastoral and academic support be in place to ensure those pupils disadvantaged going into this crisis are not disproportionately affected by it.
It is essential that the Government work with the sector to get this re-opening right, so that it is in the best interests of children, families, and staff.