I’ve written to all headteachers in my constituency, seeking their views on the Government’s plans for schools. I also joined Sheffield’s other Labour MPs and Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, Sheffield’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, in publishing the following statement.
Today the Government’s Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser has confirmed that in order for changes to lockdown to be made there must be ‘a highly effective track, trace and isolate system’ in place.
As Labour politicians in Sheffield we are united in wanting to get children back to school as quickly as possible but only when it is safe to do so. We know how worried parents, teachers, school support staff and pupils themselves are at this difficult time.
In order for us to be able to assure parents and staff alike that it is safe to return to school certain criteria must be met.
The Government has failed to test and trace effectively for over 10 weeks now and this is an essential element of entering the next phase of the lockdown. So it is significant that the Government’s Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser has today made an important intervention to highlight the need for ‘a highly effective track, trace and isolate system’ in place before schools open.
Therefore there must be an effective and comprehensive test, track and isolate system in place. We agree with the LGA that “Councils also need crucial testing data to be shared with them, to help enable greater confidence for staff and parents around school openings, and powers to manage outbreaks in places like schools, care homes, businesses and communities if new COVID-19 clusters emerge.”
Furthermore, we call on the Government to publish the evidence it has received on which it has based its decision on to open schools on a wider basis from 1st June, especially as the Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser, again, has confirmed that changes to social distancing measures must be based on ‘observed levels of incidence in places that there’s going to be change, not on a fixed date.’
We must see updated guidance to protect vulnerable teaching staff who are not currently covered by the Government’s strategy and we will continue to pay the closest regard to the advice of our Director of Public Health.
Our job, first and foremost, is to protect the people of Sheffield and we stand together as MPs and Councillors in doing that.