Covid-19 and the Government’s schools policy

Ramsgate Harbour Councillor Becky Wing

Thanet Green Party press statement, 3 January 2021

Thanet’s Green Councillors Becky Wing, Mike Garner and Trevor Roper are seriously alarmed by the confusion and harm being caused by the Government’s ill-considered schools policy in the face of the latest Covid-19 crisis.

In a situation worsened both by the abject failure of the test-and-trace system and the new B117 Covid-19 variant, school staff and parents now face further uncertainty and worry as the new term approaches.

Following yet another policy U-turn in London, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson seems unable to look further than Monday when considering his options for the rest of the country. 

He missed the opportunity to think ahead in September, and his plans are now in chaos.

He claims to have complete confidence in the promised schools-based test system. But in reality, Headteachers have neither the space nor the personnel to manage Covid-secure testing in schools at the rate promised by the Government.

Unable to access vaccines, staff, pupils and parents are increasingly concerned about the risk of infection, with the new variant proving both more prevalent among the young and significantly more infectious.

Working with communities across Thanet, our Councillors hear these concerns.

Cllr Becky Wing commented: “As a teacher myself, I know how important school attendance is, especially for vulnerable children and those with special needs.  Key workers need to know that their children are safe at school while they work on the front line to support us all. But we must balance the benefits of being in school against the health of the community as a whole.“

“Here in Thanet, Covid-19 infections are on the rise again. Hospitals are overwhelmed, with more than double the number of serious Covid-19 cases than in the first wave.  Staff are stretched to the maximum, unable to meet safe nursing requirements for the most seriously ill, but with no sign of respite. Sending all children back to school in these circumstances is madness, and risks burdening young people and their parents with the results of the Government’s poor decision-making.”

Thanet Green Councillors are calling on the Government to provide joined-up community-wide policy-making to reduce the spread of the virus, by ensuring safe school-based learning for those who need it most, facilitating home-learning for the rest, rethinking exam policy for this summer and beyond – and above all, by providing clarity, leadership and planning for the future.

Note: The Green Party nationally has called on the Government to ‘back its own call to follow the science’ by moving learning online for all schools from Monday. It has also repeated its call for all frontline workers, including teachers, to be prioritised for vaccination.

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