Since the start of the pandemic, I have been clear that keeping schools open must be an absolute priority; children (particularly at primary school age), cannot learn properly online, and the damage of closures to their education and wellbeing is immense.
Even in ‘ordinary times’, the evidence is quite clear - children who miss the most school tend to get lower grades, and it’s the children who are already most disadvantaged that pay the highest price.
That’s why I am so pleased that, thanks to the superhuman efforts locally, we’ve managed so far to keep our schools open and over the last week pupils have been able to return from their Christmas holidays.
Unfortunately, the opening of schools in the midst of such high cases does mean things such as testing will still be a part of the lives of school children along with face masks. I don’t like face masks in classrooms or in schools, and I would much rather we didn’t have to consistently test children. I accept in the short-term measures to prioritise children getting full days in school, but I am arguing – and will continue to do so - that they are removed as soon as possible.
Locally, we are lucky to have some amazing schools, and over the past two years, we have all seen what fantastic work our teachers do. They have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic in the most difficult of circumstances to support their pupils. It is vital we keep children in school and give teachers all the resources they need to continue to do the fantastic job they already do.
As some of you will know, I am a proud supporter of the Sutton Trust, who work to ensure every young person – no matter who their parents are, what school they go to, or where they live – has the chance to succeed in life. I wanted to let you all know that applications for their university and apprenticeship Summer Schools are open - and any Year 12 pupil from state schools can apply. Those successful will either attend a residential summer school at a leading university, to increase their confidence and provide them with the tools needed to navigate the higher education system, or a three-day residential for students to gain an insight into degree-level apprenticeships and allows them to meet employers and apprentices.
I attended one of these courses and it was fantastic, so if you know a child who might be interested and could benefit, then please do visit: https://summerschools.suttontrust.com/. If anyone is successful in their application, I’d love to know, so please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck.