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Newham education chief demands more action to protect schools from Covid-19

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 November 2020

Town hall education chiefs have demanded more action to keep schools safe in the pandemic. Picture: Jacob King/PA

Town hall education chiefs have demanded more action to keep schools safe in the pandemic. Picture: Jacob King/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

The town hall’s education chief has demanded the government do more to protect schools from Covid-19.

Cllr Zulfiqar Ali is the town hall's cabinet chief for education. Pic: Newham CouncilCllr Zulfiqar Ali is the town hall's cabinet chief for education. Pic: Newham Council

Cllr Zulfiqar Ali, Newham Council cabinet member for education, health and adult social care, joined 18 counterparts from London boroughs calling for a range of measures.

These include providing money to hire cover teachers to replace self-isolating staff; the same access to Covid-19 tests as NHS workers and free meals to cover school holidays.

The education chiefs also urged the government to honour a promise to supply laptops and wifi for children from deprived backgrounds who are isolating at home.

The demands were sent to education secretary Gavin Williamson in a letter which states: “We are extremely proud of the efforts to keep learning made by our children, their families and the education staff who support them.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA.Education secretary Gavin Williamson. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA.

“As we are sure you would agree, our collective duty as the local and central government is to give them the tools they need to continue to do this most important work as safely as is possible.”

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Cllr Ali said: “Alongside beating the virus, the education and welfare of our children and young people must be the top priority of this government.

“Our youngsters have already paid a heavy price. The debacle over exam results, the disgraceful decisions and U-turns on schools meals, and the failure to deliver a functioning test and trace system have all seriously impacted the ability of schools to maintain educational standards while protecting the well-being of pupils and staff.

“That schools have managed as well as they have is a true credit to them all. But be clear, they have managed this feat in spite of and not because of this government. Schools can only continue covering the cracks for so long.

“Our children’s future cannot be an afterthought. We are at risk of blighting the prospects of a generation – and thereby damaging this country’s future prosperity.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said on average costs to schools to become Covid-secure will have been a relatively small proportion of their core funding for each pupil.

For secondaries this has increased to a minimum of £5,150 – the first year of the biggest increase to core school funding in a decade.

“On top of the core funding schools are receiving, and continued to receive throughout the pandemic, we provide pupil premium funding worth £2.4billion each year to support the most disadvantaged pupils.

“Our £1bn covid catch up fund has provision both for additional tutoring targeted at the most disadvantaged, and flexible funding for schools to use to help all their pupils make up for lost education,” she added.


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