Amidst all the concerns that there may be dangers for school children returning to school and the continued U-turns from the Government our education spokesperson, Cllr Liz Makinson has been seeking answers to questions that parents have been asking Councillors citywide.
The following responses have been received from Steve Reddy our Director of Children’s Services. It’s great to know that Liverpool Council has been more forthcoming and clear than the Government. In addition to these answers Cllr Makinson, herself a teacher, has been pressing for clarity about the use of PPE in schools. Liz welcomes the fact that the Government has performed its 11th U-Turn on this issue and is ensuring that secondary school students must wear face masks in corridors and communal areas.
She has made clear right from the start there is evidence coming in from all over the World that many schools and colleges that have reopened have now had to close again.
In addition, I have been working at a national level with my Education colleague, Cllr Lucy Netsingha, to press the Government for other actions to make the schools safe and the return clearer and more likely to last. That letter is appended below.
The questions and answers:
Are Schools making clear what steps they have taken to safeguard children and how they have let parents know what they have done?
Given that all schools have received resources to support them to reopen in September and they have all be directed to upload their risk assessment to their website.
This week we are compiling a database and will start to check which schools have uploaded risk assessments and check the quality of them as we did with those reopening just before the summer.
Will all schools be reopening next week?
Our team have taken quite a few queries, but most are just to discuss the best way to do things and good practice, no indication that opening is a problem for any at this stage.
What liaison is the Council having with Head Teachers of Schools?
Primary Heads are all meeting Thursday to review the position and flag up any issues.
How will the Council deal with any outbreaks in Schools?
Jonathan Jones (Education Director) and I met with Matt Ashton and Public Health Team last Thursday to review support and intervention regarding any school outbreaks, to support this we will be putting on training for all schools in the first week of term so they have a trained person in place to respond to any suspected/confirmed cases.
What review has been taken of the methods of children getting to school?
Transport has been flagged as an issue in some areas of the country – this is being reviewed here at Merseyside level as part of the Covid Response and Recovery supported by Merseytravel. The Chief Executive of Merseytravel has issued a statement about the measures that it is taking and these are available on the Merseytravel website.
SEN transport is being reviewed at local level, at this stage we estimate we should be able to meet demand but we are meeting with our SEND transport colleagues to review the detailed requirements on a school by school basis. There potentially will be additional requirements and costs.
How is the Education system being looked at across the City?
The Covid Education Overview Group (LCC, SIL, Heads Associations) is meeting this week.
Our Letter to the Secretaries of State for Education and Health
To the Secretaries of State for Health and Education,
Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP and Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP
24th August 2020
Dear Secretaries of State,
Both as individuals and as a Party we share the desire that the Government expresses to get children back to school as quickly as possible not only to protect their mental and physical health but also to release their parents back into the labour force.
However, with our respective responsibilities as the national Liberal Democrat spokespersons for Education and Health in local government we have grave concerns about how this is being undertaken in England. Research in America has revealed that children are not only more infected with the virus than had been assumed but also, and as a consequence, more likely to carry infection back into their homes.
The Government’s approach to the issue is lacking in four crucial aspects;
- There is no understanding that schools have different opportunities for reopening. Every school has a different layout; has different means for the children and staff to get to; and serves different social communities which have different levels of virus transmission risk.
- There is no effective track and trace system in place. The situation has improved recently with more real time information and control being put into the hands of councils through their DPHs but it still is not identifying and contacting as many of its target infected and potentially infected people as it needs to
- There is a disincentive for many to comply with the system. People on very low wages and zero-hour contracts simply cannot afford to stay off work.
- There is no App in place (although this was promised in June) to allow people to know if they are close to other infected people.
To improve the situation, you can do three things:
- Ensure an enhanced level of statutory sick pay for anyone needing to isolate themselves.
- Allow local councils and especially, head teachers and their governing bodies to determine how best to reopen their schools, with what number of pupils and when.
- Allow schools where they think fit and knowing their local conditions and their pupils to adopt a hybrid system of working at home and working at school for pupils.
At present there is little confidence in the Government and its measures. We see no signs that you have looked at France and America where many schools that re-opened have had to close again.
What we are proposing here are three low-cost measures to get young people into schools and their parents back into work as soon and as safely as possible.
Cllr Lucy Nethsingha Cllr Richard Kemp CBE
Lib Dem Spokesperson on Education Lib Dem Spokesperson on Health
Local Government Association Local Government Association