Zöe's Blog: Government must step up and produce a forward plan for reopening face-to-face education

February 1, 2021 4:04 PM
By Zöe Franklin

This week the PM announced that he hoped "all schools will go back" on 8th March. The question is, is this achievable?

Boy at computer with quote (Thomas Parker via Unsplash)Throughout the pandemic, the Government has made decisions only to u-turn just days later and made announcements that have given the public hope which is then dashed after the Government have attempted to lay the blame at the public's feet. This time I'm choosing to keep my expectations low. Honestly, I need to, not for 'political' reason but because, as the parent of a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old who have spent the majority of the last 10 months learning from home, I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted.

I know that in the grand scheme of things I've got it easy - my sons are willing to learn from home and as they're older I'm able to be less hands-on than other parents, and my work has been really supportive. However, I'm still exhausted. I worry daily about their learning, the impact on their mental health, the impact on their friendships, how I will get everything I need to do for work done, and other random, sometimes irrational things. I know from speaking with other parents I am not alone in feeling like this.

From my perspective as Parliamentary Spokesperson for Guildford Liberal Democrats, I also worry about the impact that these lengthy schools closures are having on this whole generation of children and young people, especially in terms of their mental health and wellbeing. In terms of the academic side of school education, many pupils they will be able to catch up but for disadvantaged pupils, this will be much harder - the gap for some was a significant challenge that has only grown as a result of the pandemic.

Teachers and other school staff have gone above and beyond over the past year to help get our children and young people through the pandemic, sometimes facing completely unwarranted criticism. This is in stark contrast to the Government who, in my opinion, have treated children, young people and their parents as an afterthought.

As we near the anniversary of schools closing it is crucial that the Government put together a realistic plan (drawn up with the help of teaching professionals, child psychologists and other educational specialists) for how schools can fully reopen safely as soon as possible. I was therefore delighted to see that my Lib Dem parliamentary colleague Munira Wilson MP (Twickenham) has tabled a cross-party backed, parliamentary question on the topic - I look forward to hearing the Government's response.

You can read a copy of Munira's motion here: https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/58025

1st February 2021

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