Thank you for contacting me about the new lockdown and the Government’s policy on schools.
I recognise there has been significant concern about the status of schools during this outbreak. Teachers have a vital role to play in the national response to coronavirus and I would like to thank all teachers both in the South West and around the country for the important work they have been doing. Likewise, parents want to know that schools are operating as safely as possible during this uncertain time.
My own view is that it is vital that schools remain open. We have to recognise that school closures hit hardest those children from more disadvantaged backgrounds, perhaps because they have no internet or computer, or because there is nobody to home school them. By limiting class sizes, staggering break times and reducing the use of shared items, I am confident we can help prevent transmission and keep our children and teachers safe. We know children are at a lower risk of infection than adults, and the research so far undertaken indicates that young children are at reduced risk of transmitting the disease to adults.
This is not to say that there isn’t more we can do to improve the situation in schools. I have made the case to ministers for larger volumes of tests to be issued to our schools locally, as the initial allocations unfortunately did not prove sufficient at some schools. I have also made clear the need for more rapid testing for schools, as we have sadly not been immune to bottlenecks in the national testing system in the constituency.
When it comes to vulnerable staff being allowed to work from home, this is already part of the existing guidance, and I very much encourage local schools to enable home working for their most vulnerable staff where appropriate. I am pleased that local schools also now have access to direct hotlines into Public Health England should they require advice on the guidance, or in how to respond to confirmed cases in their school. Of course, my advice to local schools is to closely follow the best practice guidance that has been provided regarding COVID-secure opening, and to use these expert points of contact if they have questions or concerns.
I can assure you that I will continue to press for our schools locally to have the resources they need to continue to deliver excellent, safe education in these extremely difficult times.
Thank you again for writing to me.