Mover: Dominic Addington.
Summation: to be announced.
Motion as passed by conference
Conference notes that:
- On the 8th March 2021, following a period of partial closure, schools and colleges in England re-opened, in full, to 10 million people.
- The Government’s own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) recommended a phased reopening of schools.
- Concerns have been expressed by major education organisations – including the NEU, Association of School and College Leaders and National Association of Head Teachers – that having all pupils return at the same time risks causing a surge in coronavirus cases and calling instead for a phased return of pupils.
- With the exception of offering asymptomatic testing to pupils and staff, and secondary pupils being asked to wear masks, the Government have taken no other steps to ensure schools are safer for pupils and staff.
- The Chancellor’s Budget on the 3rd March 2021 failed to provide any additional funding to schools to help them meet the full costs associated with reducing the risks of coronavirus transmission.
Conference believes that:
- Young people have already suffered enormous disruption to their education and spent months isolated from their peers, while parents have been exhausted from the colossal efforts of juggling home schooling and their own work.
- It is right that, as we start to lift lockdown restrictions, schools opening more widely should be a top priority - but that it is equally important that this is done in a way which ensures they are able to stay open, safely, for good.
- School leaders, teachers and support staff have worked tirelessly to ensure schools are as safe as possible during the pandemic and should be applauded for their efforts, but that they have been left with completely inadequate support from the Government.
- The Government should have followed scientific advice when making the decision about how and when the wider opening of schools would happen.
- School leaders and Public Health Directors should be given greater powers to decide the best way to open and keep schools open safely, in a way that works for the students, parents and teachers of each school.
- In Wales, under the leadership of the Liberal Democrat Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, there has been a phased reopening of schools, in line with scientific advice.
Conference therefore calls for:
- Government to immediately empower schools to use rotas which would enable social distancing in classrooms and help reduce transmission and suppress the R rate.
- Government to trust school leaders to decide the best way to open schools safely and keep them open safely, subject to the approval of local Public Health Directors.
- Government to issue guidance on the use of fines for nonattendance at school, to exempt pupils who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, until clear evidence is available about the impact of fully reopening schools on coronavirus transmission rates.
- Government to distribute additional funding to schools and local authorities to implement measures to reduce the risk of virus transmission including: additional school transport so that bubbles are respected, ventilation units for every classroom and additional cleaning, and to make the process of distributing those funds as easy as possible.
- Government to continue the roll out of laptops and tablets to pupils from low-income households who need one in order to learn remotely during periods of self-isolation or full closures of schools.
- Government to continue to closely monitor the evidence of the impact which the full reopening of schools has on rates of coronavirus transmission; and if this has contributed to a rise in cases by the Easter holidays, to reconsider the use of rotas as an additional safety precaution at this point.
Applicability: England only.
Emergency motion timing – mover of motion: 5 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes.
For eligibility and procedure for speaking in these debates see page 6 of the agenda.