The Prime Minister's laying out of our road map out of lockdown, prioritising the return to the classroom of all pupils, is very welcome.
Yesterday afternoon's announcement gave reassurance to schools and families and fulfilled the Government’s promise of two weeks’ notice for schools to prepare for a full return of their pupils on 8th March. The Government has been very clear that the return of in-person teaching is the national priority due to the significant and proven impact caused by being out of school to the health and wellbeing of children and young people.
The return of all school pupils at the start of March will be supported by twice-weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils. This testing will be a reassurance to families and teachers and ensure that any potential clusters of cases can be quickly isolated.
Other protective measures across education have been strengthened, with students in Year 7 and above now being required to wear face coverings indoors including in classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained.
The news that those learning from home will be returning back to school follows on from the Government announcement last month of a £300 million ‘catch up’ fund to ensure that no child is left behind.
It's great news for parents, pupils and schools that we now have a confirmed date for classroom learning to resume for all schoolchildren. Teachers have done a wonderful job with the difficult task of balancing in person learning for those pupils in school with digital learning for those pupils that have been asked to study at home. I am sure that pupils will be keen to get back into the classroom.
As we know, some have found it more difficult than others to adjust to the challenges of remote learning. I called for the Government to ensure that educational disadvantage is not entrenched in our region, due to the North West’s higher case rates this year, and I am very pleased the Government has listened and taken this point into account in creating the £300 million catch-up fund.
Home learning has been supported with hundreds of thousands of digital devices and network connections, but for many it is no substitute for in-person learning at school and can be a struggle for working parents. The announcement that wraparound childcare for primary and secondary school pupils will also resume from Monday 8th March is a welcome one for working parents.
And both schools and families will be able to prepare for Monday 8th and a return to education supported by the Government's £300 million catch-up fund.
In addition to schools returning on 8th March, the Prime Minister has also set out the earliest dates that we can look to open up from restrictions has been very welcome to hear. Throughout the pandemic the Government has recognised the social impact of lockdown - which is why they have always continued social bubbles to support those on their own, and are now prioritising ways for people to see their loved ones safely.
From 8th March, we will also be able to meet one person outside their household for outdoor recreation in addition to exercise. Every care home resident will also be able to nominate a visitor.
These dates are subject to regular review and potential changes, as the Government acts upon advice from scientific and medical advisors as well as constantly changing data. You can read the full information guide here.
Balancing Covid and the effects of tackling it is incredibly difficult. As we cautiously begin to emerge, supported by our fantastic vaccine roll out and the aim to vaccinate all adults in the summer, I'll be continuing to ensure that the voices of Cheadle are heard in decision-making.