As Covid levels rise alarmingly across the country and Boris Johnson dithers, Labour leader Keir Starmer has called for a national lockdown now and the main teaching union the NEU has called for a rethink about opening schools. These calls have been echoed by Labour leaders across Somerset. Leader of County Labour group Cllr Leigh Redman (Bridgwater Hamp) he has been in correspondence with assistant director of education at about access to allow online learning for young people and also with the NEU regional sec but says the Somerset position is not yet clear. Bridgwater Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley has called for an urgent leaders liaison meeting with Sedgemoor group leaders to address the concerns and response to the massive increase in covid levels across the district.
Cllr Brian Smedley (Bridgwater Westover) says “Keir Starmer has called for an immediate national lockdown from today. It’s about time the country had some consistency of response that we can all rely on. Boris Johnson is trying to see if his tier system is working -but it isn’t, and its also unfair and confusing. Meanwhile, Vaccines offer hope but roll out needs to be quicker to keep ahead of virus mutations. We need immediate action. There’s 52,000 a day positive Covid cases now, clearly a major pressure on the NHS. We also need to listen to the people who work in the schools, the health service, the community and lockdown across the board and across the country now.”
Cllr Glen Burrows (Bridgwater Eastover) is the Chair of Bridgwater Branch Labour party and a Town Councillor. She says “We should express our full support for the NEU. They are the on-the-ground experts when it comes to the spread of infection in schools. At the same time the government must ensure on-line learning facilities and income support for those families who are prevented from working if their children are at home.”
Cllr Mick Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) is the Town Council’s economy and Staff portfolio holder. He adds “The main concern is can schools be safe places to work. Is testing in place and are there enough staff available to provide a teaching service and pastoral care. If this is not the case, then the school should close and offer online education. In some areas such as Birmingham and Brighton the decision to close schools has been taken locally by the Local Authority. The NEU position is that essential worker’s children and vulnerable pupils should continue at school. We are likely to be moving into Lockdown soon and closure of schools will take place. Far better to go into two weeks online learning while waiting for Johnson to make up his mind. The infection rate has increased rapidly in Somerset and especially Sedgemoor.”.
Cllr Alexia Bartlett (Bridgwater, Dunwear) is shadow portfolio on District for Health and Well Being and a Teacher. She says “The NEU’s position on the closure of schools is clear and I fully support it. This issue is about the protection of both students and staff (as well as their families and the wider community), and the move to online learning is a valid alternative given the situation we are all in. Contrary to many media reports, teachers would definitely prefer for face-to-face teaching to take place and NOT to close schools: Whilst we do our utmost to provide a fully comprehensive programme, online teaching is difficult to plan and deliver and eats into an otherwise tightly-scheduled curriculum. More importantly, it is difficult for some students to access and just does not replace the subtleties of face-to-face teaching. However, the Covid infection rate is spiralling dangerously out of control and as schools are a key place of transmission, closure needs to be implemented as a matter of urgency. In addition, there needs to be more direct Government help and flexibility in terms of the mass testing that is being requested. It is currently a logistical nightmare.”