Thanks to all those who have written to me about the proposed re-opening of schools and thanks also to those headteachers who have replied to my email asking for their thoughts on this matter. I share many of the concerns they have shared with me.
I will be working closely with local schools who are on the frontline, supporting them with any concerns they have, so that when more children in Barnsley return to school it is safe to do so.
There are many problems with the current plan to re-open schools on the 1st June and this week I met with the National Education Union. They have stated a number of conditions which must be met for schools to return safely, including testing, social distancing and lower levels of cases in the community.
I have also raised the concerns of constituents directly with the Minister for Children and Families, discussing the very real fear people feel about this issue. It is clear that the Government must work collaboratively with school leaders, trade unions, governors, parents and carers to come up with practical safety conditions that must be met before schools can be reopened.
From the outset of this crisis I have been worried about those children who are being left behind while the schools are closed. Learning online is not always a level playing field, and some children are losing out on vital learning simply because they do not have the resources at home to complete school work. When schools open it will not be like before, social distancing measures are likely to continue for some time. We need to make sure that disadvantaged and vulnerable children do not miss out as we adjust to new ways of working and educating. I have pressed the Government on what support and resources they are offering to schools and disadvantaged children to make online learning work.
I would like to offer my thanks to teachers across the country, who have been working around the clock to provide online lessons and support for students at home.