We must make schools safe

September 04 2020
We must make schools safe

Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy writes for the Voice

THIS year has been a difficult year for pupils in east Bristol schools, and of course their parents and teachers. Many children will not have been in a classroom setting since the start of lockdown, and older pupils will have had all the stress around results to contend with too.

Schools in Bristol will re-open in full from early September. I support this, as there is clear evidence that children’s education has suffered during lockdown, despite the best efforts of parents to home educate, often while trying to do their normal jobs from home too. But we do have to make sure that the school environment is safe for pupils and staff.

The threat of COVID-19 remains, and many schools will be adopting procedures to protect their pupils and staff. All parents should check with their school to see what the procedures are for pupils to return. For instance, Bristol Metropolitan Academy is having staggered starts in the first week, so everyone can get used to the new 'bubbling” arrangements.

Bristol City Council has been working with schools to produce risk assessments and put in place the correct procedures to follow, for instance if a positive case is identified. Everyone should continue to follow public health advice, e.g. children not attending school if they have COVID-19 symptoms and getting tested whilst isolating.

I appreciate how difficult this period has been, and that many parents will have concerns for their children's and family's safety. However, from September the legal obligation that children must attend school will be back in force, so if you have any concerns, you should contact your child's school in the first instance. Hillfields Councillor Anna Keen, who is the education lead at the council, and I would be willing to offer extra support too.

Interestingly, a University of Bristol survey of 1,000 secondary school children in the South West revealed their anxiety levels actually dropped during the pandemic.

I was deeply concerned about the number of pupils who had their A-level grades downgraded by the controversial standardisation process. I wrote to the Education Secretary on behalf of all the young people who contacted me. The Government U-turn allowing teachers' assessed grades to be used for A-levels and GCSEs was welcome, but this mess should never have happened.

The process has been handled awfully, and many young people are still facing uncertainty about university places and their next steps. If you or someone you know who is a resident of Bristol East has been affected, then please do get in touch. My team and I will do everything we can to help.

You can contact me at kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk or by phoning 0117 939 9901.