The Children’s Commissioner and Solace have written a joint letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to set-out a roadmap for the reopening of schools to all pupils.
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to urge you to set-out a roadmap for the reopening of schools to all pupils.
We welcome your personal commitment to open schools as soon as possible, and particularly your promise that schools will be the first to open when lockdown can be eased. We agree with you that school is the best place for children and that children’s education should not be compromised for a day longer than necessary.
Unfortunately, it is much easier to close schools than to reopen them. That is why we are calling on the Government to produce a clear roadmap for reopening schools to all pupils. Without it, there is a risk that the status quo becomes embedded as a default position.
We are not saying that it is safe to open schools now, or that a date needs to be set. Rather, we are requesting that you set out the key criteria that need to be met in order for schools to safely reopen, and what practical support will be needed within schools. Having a clear plan will focus minds across the entire education system from central Government to individual schools.
As a first step towards this we are requesting that you re-convene the SAGE sub-group on schools to consider the evidence that has emerged since the last meeting on the new strain, and the impact of school closures and lockdown. Specifically, we would ask that SAGE consider:
- What conditions need to be in place for schools to be able to reopen without compromising wider efforts to suppress the virus.
- What additional measures may be needed within schools (such as testing or staff vaccinations) to suppress the virus.
We would ask this advice then forms a published roadmap to the wider reopening of schools that can inform schools, local authorities and other partners – as well as children and their parents. Doing this would help schools and local areas to prepare in good time, so that plans are in place and there is wider confidence in the system. If significant changes are needed (such as changes to the testing system), they need to be implemented ahead of the date at which schools can return.
Setting this out now not only increases the prospects of schools being able to return, and it would also improve trust amongst schools, teachers, parents and children.
All best wishes,
Anne Longfield OBE
Children’s Commissioner for England
Solace spokesperson for Children & Families, and Chief Executive, Bromley LBC