The Liberal Democrats have warned that the Government must take immediate steps to prepare for “inevitable” closures to schools and universities in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.
In a letter to the Education Secretary, the party's education spokesperson Layla Moran has pointed to schools that are already making plans to close during the pandemic and called for “urgent clarity… about what they will be expected to provide and how vulnerable children will be protected”.
The latest research from Imperial College London, which informed the Government’s actions announced this week, recommends that the minimum steps needed to suppress the virus include both “population-wide social distancing” and “school and university closure.”
In her letter, Layla Moran requests an urgent meeting with Ministers in order to discuss:
- If schools have the funding to pay for home-working equipment for staff who do not have it, and for online teaching resources for students;
- How the Government will ensure that the children of NHS staff and other frontline workers are looked after when schools close;
- How schools will ensure that children who receive free schools meals will not go hungry;
- What steps are needed to protect vulnerable children, such as those with chronic health conditions and pupils excluded from school;
- If he will scrap this year’s SATs and ensure the suspension of Ofsted inspections lasts at least three months, in order to reduce pressure on teachers and pupils;
- What support and dispensation the Government and exam boards will give to students about to take GCSEs or A-Levels.
Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
“The evidence the Government is following suggests that closing schools and universities is now a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. The Government must start adequately preparing schools.
“Teachers and parents need as much advance warning as possible about when schools will close and how children will be looked after. Ministers must provide clarity about what schools are expected to provide and how vulnerable children will be protected. I have asked for an urgent call with the Education Secretary to seek some answers.
“The Liberal Democrats will be critical and constructive with the Government during this pandemic. We will support Ministers in their efforts to keep people healthy and safe, whilst arguing for more support for students, businesses and communities to help them manage this crisis.”