Bill Esterson MP criticises Government’s return to school planning

4th January 2022

Bill Esterson MP has criticised the Government’s Covid plans for pupils’ return to the classroom after the Christmas break.

Sefton Central MP Mr Esterson said that plans for air filters to be distributed to schools were woefully inadequate as there were only 7,000 available for more than 300,000 classrooms in England.

Pupils will be tested for Covid before returning to the classroom but some schools have been forced to make last-minute changes to their term start dates because tests promised by the government have not arrived in time.

Mr Esterson said: “The Government’s testing regime has been a shambles throughout Christmas with widespread shortages of covid tests. And now it seems the Government can’t even arrange for schools to have the tests they need even though they have known for many months how many tests would be needed by schools and when.

“This compounds the issues around lack of ventilation in schools, staff shortages and low vaccination rates among 12 to 17 year olds. The Government should have arranged for teenagers to be vaccinated over the Christmas holidays, something my Labour colleagues and I have been calling for since last summer.

“Schools are warning that they may have to send whole classes home due to staff shortages and the Government promise of an army of supply teachers to keep our children in school has not materialised. This was completely predictable as there are in reality very few teachers able to return to the classroom, as ministers must have known when they made the announcement.

“The Government was told by its own scientists at the start of the pandemic that schools should be prioritised for measures to stop the spread of Covid where ventilation is inadequate. While the Welsh Labour Government committed £3.3m to this, the Conservatives in England waited until just hours before the start of term to announce air cleaning units for a handful of school settings but only enough for 7 in every 300 classrooms.

“Of course the lack of proper ventilation also leads to supply teachers being reluctant to come forward to assist because they fear that classrooms are not Covid safe.

“It is just more incompetence and lack of planning from the Government. Again the Conservative approach has been woefully inadequate.”

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