Cllr Scott Dickinson
Cllr Scott Dickinson
After weeks of lock down, the restrictions are being eased and we face the prospect of at least some children returning to school.
While we all want our children to be able to continue their eduction, but this must be done safely, for our children, teachers, support staff and of course parents, relatives or family friends who are bringing children to school and collecting them from school.
The government announced children Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils should return to school after the half term holidays on 1 June.
We welcome the North East plan to open when its safe to do so and not when the government tells them to.
Deputy leader of Northumberland Labour Group and shadow cabinet member for children’s services Scott Dickinson said: “I personally believe that the councils need to support schools individually with the arrangements that work well for children, teachers and support staff, with the main priority always being safety.
“The National Education Unions’ five key tests for schools to reopen appears to be a sensible and managed approach to me; something that no school or council should have issue with. In the letter I signed to the Education Secretary it said the below five key safety tests were critical.”
Test 1 : Much lower numbers of Covid-19 cases
The new case count must be much lower than it is now, with a sustained downward trend and confidence that new cases are known and counted promptly. And the government must have extensive arrangements for testing and contact tracing to keep it that way.
Test 2 : A national plan for social distancing
The government must have a national plan including parameters for both appropriate physical distancing and levels of social mixing in schools, as well as for appropriate PPE, which will be locally negotiated at school-by-school and local authority level.
Test 3 : Testing, testing, testing!
Comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff to ensure our schools and colleges don’t become hot spots for Covid-19.
Test 4 : Whole school strategy
Protocols to be put in place to test a whole school or college when a case occurs and for isolation to be strictly followed.
Test 5 : Protection for the vulnerable
Vulnerable staff, and staff who live with vulnerable people, must work from home, fulfilling their professional duties to the extent that is possible. Plans must be specifically address the protection of vulnerable parents, grandparents and carers.
Scott added: “Ten years of austerity which have plunged many more children into poverty and severely compromised what schools are able to offer have made this bad situation worse.
“Resources are needed urgently to provide schools with the necessary staffing, materials and equipment to allow them to adapt and protect all staff and students. We cannot have them trying to make do with the reduced money they have.
“No wants a case of this being more haste, less speed. It’s important in the interests of children, teachers, support staff and families to do this, but do it correctly. Robust, resourced safety measures are most definitely needed and should be supported by all.
“I want to see normality and schools return as soon as it’s safe to do so, nobody wants children to miss out on education. I will fully support anyway I can with the safe reopening of schools.
“It would be tragic if all the sacrifices people have made to stay at home and stay physically distant from each other were lost as the restrictions are lifted. No one wants to see a spike in this terrible virus.”
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