Medway Labour and Co-operative Group today reacted to the announcement by the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, on the restarting of the school term. The Secretary of State announced that Medway primary schools in Tier 4 would not reopen on 4th January.  Secondaries would not reopen as originally planned on 4th January, but would have a staggered reopening up to 18th January.

Cllr Clive Johnson, Labour and Co-operative Group Shadow Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said, ‘We welcome the delay to the full reopening of schools.  It will give a longer period for breaking Covid 19 infection rates and the opportunity for testing of school pupils to be organised and administered more efficiently and effectively than was possible under the government’s rushed announcement at the end of last term. However, this is another chaotic, last-minute announcement that simply adds to the pressures on schools, on our young people and on families.

‘Medway Labour has been calling for a circuit-break in schools, moving them online, with appropriate provision for the children of key workers and for vulnerable children, in order to break the transmission of the Covid 19 virus in our Medway communities. This is a half-measure, rushed in at the last minute, that again is unfair on school leaders, their staff, and families, who have already had to cope with so much this year and at the end of the last school term in particular.

‘Today’s announcement shows how poorly the government has handled the second wave. Its own advisory committee, SAGE, has demonstrated that schools are a major source of community infection. Medway Labour calls on all schools in Tier 4 areas to be moved online until community transmission rates, community infection rates and pressures on Medway Maritime Hospital are all falling and Medway is moved out of Tier 4.’

Cllr Vince Maple, Labour and Co-operative Group Leader, said, ‘It is extraordinary that the Secretary of State has the affrontery to now partially move schools online after ignoring calls from educational professionals and families to provide this protection for school staff and communities.

Medway Labour have called for this safety measure since mid-November but our pleas were refused by Medway Council’s Conservative administration and the Regional Schools Commissioner.

‘The government even ordered Islington and Greenwich Councils to  keep schools open despite clear evidence of the threat to their communities. We welcome this measure but call on the government to extend it to ensure schools are allowed to remain online until there is clear evidence that transmission rates are substantially falling.’

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