Liberal Democrats five point plan for reopening schools as Government shows no understanding of the challenges facing them

July 22, 2020 10:58 AM

"The Government's funding allocations for schools in 2021-22 shows no understanding of challenges facing them", Newcastle Liberal Democrats Education Spokesperson Cllr Christine Morrissey says. Christine Morrissey Grange school

"The Conservatives' spending plans show no understanding of the challenges facing schools in September. They have asked schools to open as normal when our Test and Trace system is faulty. Teachers must try to reverse the harm to children's learning, development and mental health, when many disadvantaged children have disappeared off schools' radars entirely during lockdown.

"In the face of this crisis, spending plans announced last year are utterly unfit for purpose. All the Government has added is a catch-up premium worth just £80 per pupil per year, and a tutoring fund. It's simply not enough to pay for the small group teaching that Ministers say our children need.

"The pandemic requires us to invest in education at all levels on an unprecedented scale. That's why Liberal Democrats have launched a five-point plan to re-open schools safely, provide laptops to those who need them and close the disadvantage gap, so that we can give every child a great start in life."

The Liberal Democrats' five-point plan for reopening schools to more pupils in England is.

* Increase capacity for physical learning, by combining local spare space registers, so that local councils and school leaders can find suitable empty buildings in the community to use as learning spaces.


* Recruit an army of extra teachers to cope with demand. The Government should launch a Teach for Britain recruitment campaign to bring out-of-work supply teachers and recently-retired teachers into schools so more pupils can return. This builds on the success of the Social Work Together campaign, developed with the Local Government Association. Ministers should work with unions to get more teachers into learning spaces in any one school day.

* End the online learning void for thousands of children. Ministers should develop a bold strategy to leave no child behind by partnering with the private sector to get laptops and internet access to any disadvantaged child currently unable to learn online. The Government's current target to provide 230,000 laptops has left out too many children. Councils are neither receiving the equipment they have asked for, nor seeing high uptake rates for the kit they're given. The Government should launch a major advertising campaign to encourage families and children to ask for equipment, backed up by working with schools to get more physical resources including textbooks to children lacking internet or computer access.

* Design a flexible, phased reopening that follows the science and has the trust of parents and the profession by being developed with them, following the lead of Kirsty Williams in Wales. Schools should aim to begin the next academic year on time in September, but double the autumn half-term break to two weeks. We must recognise that many schools are doing a fantastic job at phased reopening, and ensure local authorities, academy trusts and government are learning from their successes.

* Halt the widening of the disadvantage gap. The Government should combine the summer provision of free school meals with an emergency uplift in child benefit of £150 per child per month, with £100 for every subsequent child, during this crisis. The catch-up premium should be worth at least £700 for every disadvantaged child eligible for the pupil premium, to enable schools and charities to give them a much-needed boost in the next academic year. Ministers should create a Summer Learning Fund so that councils can run summer learning camps for children, focused on local authorities in the most deprived areas. This will prepare children for September and give many children a positive environment in which to learn and re-acclimatise to an educational environment. The Government should fund places on these courses for children on free school meals.