Schools reopening: Government failure is major blow to families in Newcastle and elswhere
The Government failed to guarantee the reopening of schools in September in the House of Commons this week. Newcastle Liberal Democrats Spokesperson for Ckkr Christine Morrissey said:
"I am horrified by the Minister's failure to reassure MPs that schools will open again in September. It is a major blow to every family.
"So many other parents have had children at home before the end of term due to COVID infections.
"Parents need this government to get a grip or they will be awarded "F" for failure, not freedom."
Current guidance from Newcastle City Council is :
Over the school summer holidays 2021
- Best summer ever activities - covered by separate and specific DfE and PHE guidance documents; mitigations are lower, in line with national Step 4; face coverings not compulsory but may be used if risk assessments indicate
- Free school meals - all eligible children and young people will receive £15 per child per week for maximum of six week, ie. maximum of £90 per child over the summer; schools and colleges distributing vouchers as previously
- Testing over the summer - recommended that staff and children continue to test regularly over the summer if they are attending settings that remain open, such as summer schools and activities based in school settings
School restart in September 2021
- School risk assessments - these are being redrafted by schools now to take into account national Step 4 guidance from DfE and PHE
- Testing of staff and pupils - arrangements as September 2020 - secondary-aged pupils tested twice on return to school in September (tests 3 to 5 days apart); schools may start testing up to 3 days before formal restart and may stagger pupils' return in first week back to allow for logistics of testing; staff and pupils should continue twice weekly testing at home until end of September when guidance will be reviewed
- Face coverings - no longer compulsory on school transport or within schools from next term; local discretion to use them if required, eg. further outbreaks
- Self-isolation of close contacts - from 16 August children under 18 will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are a close contact of a positive case
The full exchange between Liberal Democrats' Munira Wilson MP and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi in the House of Commons on Monday is below:
Munira Wilson: "Like hundreds of thousands of other school children, my seven-year-old daughter is out of school, at home today, self-isolating.
"I'm sure he'll agree with me that children have paid far too high a price in this pandemic in terms of their mental health and missing out on school. Yet just last week Professor Whitty said we may see restrictions in five weeks time, just before schools returned.
"The Department for Education issued new guidance to schools saying they must be prepared to deliver remote education in the Autumn. And today he has said he will not be vaccinating all teenagers. So what guarantees can this Government provide to pupils and parents across the country that schools will reopen in September, fully and safely, and stay open? Will he rule out any further school closures?"
Nadhim Zahawi: "I'm grateful to the honorable lady. Just to say to her that we and the devolved administration have accepted the advice from the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation to vaccinate vulnerable children and children who live with vulnerable adults and 17-year-olds who are close to their 18th birthday.
"But they are keeping it under review and looking at more data emerging from other countries including the United States of America as to whether we should vaccinate all children.
"I will give her the reassurance that children will have two supervised tests on their return and testing will continue until the end of September. So it is a combination of that and vaccinating at scale for all adults that helps us control transmission as we know double-vaccinated people obviously reduce transmission rates by about 50%."