Statement regarding re-opening of schools
Statement from Councillor Shaun Davies, Leader and Councillor Shirley Reynolds, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People, Education and Lifelong Learning
Parents, teachers and head teachers are concerned about the government’s position that primary schools re-open tomorrow (4 January) when numbers of people with COVID-19 are rising nationally.
As of 1 January, there are 312 cases per 100,000 population in Telford and Wrekin, with the next release of numbers this Thursday 7 January.
In other parts of the country where primary schools have closed, they are within Tier 4 areas.
It’s important to note that Telford and Wrekin is in Tier 3.
The next scheduled review date of Tiers by government is 13 January 2021.
As a local authority, we do not have the power to close any of the schools in the borough.
However, we are working with individual schools to support them with their plans and will support head teachers with whatever arrangements are made at each school. Parents should check their child’s school website to see the latest updates.
Telford & Wrekin Council continues to work closely and constructively with our head teachers and governing bodies to ensure schools are as safe as possible.
We have advised schools they should prioritise opening for vulnerable children, as well as children of critical key workers, if they do not have enough staff to open for all children.
For those children falling outside these groups, remote learning should be introduced.
We understand the concerns of teachers and school staff who do not feel it is safe to return to school, given the latest government’s scientific advice, and as a result have opted to switch to remote learning as an alternative.
At the same time, we urge parents to keep their children away from school if they feel ill.
There will be no fines for parents who keep their children at home, if they have concerns about COVID-19. Parents and carers should speak to their school about this.
At Telford & Wrekin Council we have offered enhanced testing which is more than national guidance has proposed.
All staff who work in schools will be encouraged to take a test, that are widely available locally.
The council has been actively pushing health bodies to ramp up capacity for delivering the vaccine in the borough as quickly as possible.
Looking ahead, we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable and ensuring they receive the vaccination at the earliest opportunity.
We also believe staff in educational settings, alongside other critical front line workers, should be prioritised in the vaccine rollouts, so children can return to their classrooms safely.
Along with many other councils across England, we are actively expressing our disappointment to the Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson, regarding the last minute policy changes by the Department for Education throughout this pandemic and the real impact this has had on the wellbeing of dedicated education professionals, children, young people and their families.
Information about mass testing was provided right at the end of last term, all school leaders were provided with policy documents late on New Year’s Eve and schools have been expected to work over this weekend to coordinate changing arrangements for the beginning of term.
There has been a lack of national leadership to this national crisis. This is simply not good enough.
At Telford & Wrekin Council we remain totally committed to doing everything we can to protect and care for all of our residents, families and communities throughout the pandemic and beyond.