Medway Labour: Can Schools Return Safely?

Medway Labour and Cooperative Group today expressed their concern about the wider reopening of schools in Medway. Schools have been open throughout the pandemic and during lockdown for the children of critical and key workers and for vulnerable children.

From Monday 8th March, schools will reopen to all pupils. School leaders and members of staff have said how keen they are to see young people return to education, but have also expressed concern about their own safety and that of their students.

While the progress of the NHS vaccination programme has been impressive, which should begin to have an impact on infection rates and pressure on hospitals, schools were clearly identified as a key source of community infection rates during the autumn term.

Cllr Clive Johnson, Medway Labour and Cooperative Group Shadow Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said today:

‘We have said all along that school is the best place for our young people. But it is essential that we are sure that the wider reopening of schools will be safe, not just for pupils and school staff but for our wider community. The autumn saw a catastrophic rise in community infection rates, enormous pressure on our hospital and, sadly, deaths of Medway residents.

‘What has the government and Medway Council done to ensure that we do not return to the dark days of autumn? Our young people and many of our school staff will not have received even one dose of vaccine, let alone the two doses which provide maximum protection. So far, all that the government guidance has suggested is the wearing of masks. I wonder if any member of the government has ever been in a state school, or met a state school leader.’

Cllr Vince Maple, Medway Labour and Cooperative Group Leader, said:

‘We are desperate for the wider reopening of schools to be a success as our young people have suffered enough over the past year. But this is an anxious time for our communities.

‘The key question is: What has changed from the autumn reopening? What additional safety measures have been put in place? How can we prevent another surge in infections in Medway that, last autumn, led to chaos for families, rocketing infection rates and unacceptable pressure on our hospital and hospital staff?’

Medway Times