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Greens call on Government to offer more assurances to schools ahead of second lockdown

We continue to support staff, pupils and parents as government inaction leaves city vulnerable to Covid-19

Green Councillors have today spoken out ahead of the second lockdown period beginning tomorrow, where schools, colleges and universities will remain open.

All schools in the city continue to follow government guidelines, and the latest government announcement has made clear that schools across the country are to remain open to all students. However Greens say the time is now for Government to act to ensure school attendance and health of staff can be managed safely.

While schools are working closely with the council’s public health team to keep Covid-19 cases low, and governing bodies decide whether to open or close a school, Greens are calling for government to act on five concerns and have committed to working with partners and unions to review the safety of keeping education open.

These concerns are:

Testing

To make the lockdown effective, schools need access to tests. Schools must be provided with regular access to rapid testing for both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases so they can get the answers they need quickly, understand the full picture and continue to provide the education our pupils need.

Ventilation

We are not convinced that ventilation can be provided adequately over the winter period. Now the weather has turned, classrooms may become too cold to teach in very soon if the answer is keeping windows open.

PPE

Schools and colleges must get access to PPE funded by Government. While guidance has been updated on the use of face coverings in corridors, the Government should review whether it is appropriate for these to be used in secondary classrooms as well.

Funding

School budgets are already incredibly stretched after ten years of austerity. And the pressures of funding additional cleaning, and providing PPE, will mean they will struggle to balance the books this year. Currently schools are only able to claim funding for cleaning if they have a suspected coronavirus case, but all schools, irrespective of cases, are increasing their cleaning to manage the spread of the virus. 

Exams

After months off school, pupils are not in a position to sit tests next year. Progress has stalled among many pupils, particularly the most vulnerable. We believe our children and young people should be given the chance to catch up by not putting them under undue pressure to sit stressful assessments. Government must cancel GCSEs, A Levels and SATs now so schools have the clarity they need.

Cllr Hannah Clare, Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee said:

“Our family of schools are continuing to manage the challenging circumstances of being told to keep schools open during a pandemic and are following the guidance given, after so much preparation ahead of September. But without the assurances being met we are concerned about the risk to students, staff and the wider community.  

“We are seeking assurances from Government that they will help schools, colleges and universities by meeting these requests – without them this latest set of restrictions has the potential to leave education settings in the lurch as we go into winter, precisely at the time they are working to keep children and young people safe.

“Children and young people have been through one lockdown already this year with its negative effects on their mental health and education. We are mindful of the disproportionate effects on our most disadvantaged children. So we don’t take the idea of a second school closure lightly – but of course, we are constantly reviewing the situation and would support our schools and governing bodies in closing schools should we get to the point where they feel they need to close.

“We have also made it clear that we want to work with parents and schools to address concerns at what we know is a stressful time – as we’ve already said publicly, for example, we do not believe in ‘fines’ as an approach and we want to be clear that we will support decisions of local governing bodies around the management of local schools. We are listening to our public health experts and right now we are assured that our local schools are continuing to work hard and do all they can to ensure they are not settings with a high risk of transmission.

“The government must urgently answer the questions so many in our city will have about how our schools can be better supported so that students can receive the education they need and deserve.”

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