No apology for Somerset Children

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education made a statement today to the House of Commons. That statement covered the current situation in our schools. He noted “Mr Speaker, I never wanted to be in a position where we had to close schools again. I believe that schools should always have their gates open welcoming children and always being at the heart of their community. The moment that the virus permits, all our children will be back in school with their teachers and their friends.”

So far so entirely reasonable. The Secretary of State began his statement by telling us “I would like to reassure everyone that our schools have not suddenly become unsafe, but limiting the number of people who attend them is essential when the COVID rates are climbing as they are now.”

Nobody has ever suggested this. The issue that has exercised many, is why the local authorities were told to open schools on 4 January. Mr Williamson completely failed to address this issue in his statement. The fact is due to this dithering, primary schools in Somerset opened on 4 January. this will have greatly increased the risk of infections between pupils. And of that infection being taken back to the household of each infected pupil.

By the evening of 4 January The Prime Minister felt able to tell schools to close. Yet for one school day, entirely unnecessary social mixing was not just enabled, it was technically compulsory.

Mr Williamson also noted “I know there is, understandably, concern about free school meals. We are going to provide extra funding to support schools to provide food parcels or meals to eligible children. Where schools cannot offer food parcels or use local solutions, we will ensure a national voucher scheme is in place so that every eligible child can access free school meals while their school remains closed.”

As regards online learning “If parents feel their child’s school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and failing that, report the matter to Ofsted. Ofsted will inspect schools – of any grade – where it has serious concerns about the quality of remote education being provided.

And if you have children doing exams this year there is some more good news. “Another area where we have learned lessons is on exams. Last year, all four nations of the UK found their arrangements for awarding grades did not deliver what they needed, with the impact felt painfully by students and their parents. Although exams are the fairest way we have of assessing what a student knows, the impact of this pandemic now means that it is not possible to have these exams this year. I can confirm that GCSEs and A and AS Level exams will not go ahead this summer. This year we are going to put our trust in teachers rather than algorithms.”


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