Blogs > John Glen Salisbury MP Diary > 27th May 2020

27th May 2020

27th May 2020

Notwithstanding the political storm this week about the actions of the Prime Minister’s principal adviser, there continues to be positive news on coronavirus infection numbers and therefore work continues towards lifting the lockdown and restoring normality.

A lot of Salisbury people are on the brink of having their lockdown lives transformed next week by the return of the first few year groups to school.

I know that some of those eligible to return are fearful, while others who are not part of the first cohort of returnees are disappointed and impatient to get back.

This is a gradual process, informed by the scientific advice we are receiving but also contingent on the rate of infection – the R – remaining low.

The government has listened to the concerns raised about the impact on young people's education and mental health of being separated from their teachers and peers.

Because we also know how important schools are in allowing parents to get back to work, they have been one of the first areas of attention.

The risk to children from the virus is statistically very small. Obviously, we know that young children in particular will not reliably follow social distancing but they will learn and play in small 'pods' and not mix with children outside their own social bubble, something which has been done very successfully in Denmark.

I am sensitive to the challenge that podding, coupled with increased time spent cleaning and handwashing, will pose, particularly in small schools.

However, nowhere in the extensive guidance to schools are they asked to immediately deliver the full curriculum using exactly the same teaching methods they normally would. Schools are at liberty to split classes and deploy staff as they see fit and in a way that suits the numbers that wish to return and the facilities that are available.

Of course, we already owe a debt of gratitude to teachers. They are key workers and the majority of local schools have remained open to other key workers’ children throughout the crisis in a managed way that has not resulted in any trend of school-acquired infections.

All workers, key or not, who cannot work from home have already been asked to return to work. Broadening school access is part and parcel of extending the gradual return to more normal economic activity.

We are also in the fortunate position of being able to learn from the experience of and follow best practice in other countries who returned to school much earlier in their infection ‘curve’.

The effects of all the steps that have already been taken to reopen the economy are being monitored carefully by our finest scientists, epidemiologists and statisticians and this modest school return will be no different.

We will continue to be led by the data but, provided the R stays below one, normality must and will be allowed to return – gradually, cautiously and in line with the scientific consensus.

Posted by John Glen at 10:41am

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