Unsurprisingly, I’ve received a lot of emails from constituents who are concerned about the Government’s plans to reopen schools to more pupils from June 1st. I thought it would be helpful to share my views here.
The first thing to say is that returning to school must be a priority, not only for the sake of pupils’ education but also for their wellbeing. I am concerned that the attainment gap will further widen and that existing inequalities will be further exacerbated if pupils remain at home for too long. We also know that there has been an increase in domestic violence during lockdown and the impact of the restrictions on families’ mental health should not be overlooked.
That said, there are serious problems with the proposed plan to reopen schools on June 1st. Concerns regarding many of the measures contained within it, including the feasibility of the social distancing measures proposed and protection of children, staff and parents, have been raised in recent days by parents, school leaders, teaching staff and trade unions.
My Labour colleagues and I are urging the Government to work collaboratively with trade unions and parents’ organisations to create a series of practical safety concerns that must be addressed within schools before the Government confirms a date for their reopening. At the beginning of this month Rebecca Long-Bailey, our Shadow Secretary of State for Education, declared her support for the National Education Union’s five tests.
Locally I know that Lewisham Council is consulting with schools and other interested parties before deciding how to proceed. The council has published a statement on the proposed reopening here.
In addition to this, we believe that when schools do return, a package of academic and pastoral support will be necessary to ensure that those already disadvantaged going into this crisis are not disproportionately affected.
This could include enhanced pupil premium funding, a national programme of emotional and well-being support for all students and modifications to next year’s curriculum and exams.
We are urging the government to work with the sector to get this right in the best interests of children, families and staff.