Monday 15th June 2020
Dear Councillor Kerr,
We regret that Kingston Council did not take the advice of the National Education Union (NEU) and issue guidelines for schools with regards to re-opening, as per the letter the Kingston & Surbiton Labour Party sent you on Wednesday 27th May 2020.
As you will be aware, the report published by the top scientists known as Independent Sage stated that schools should not be re-opened until the risk presented by Covid-19 had been significantly reduced.
Whilst other local authorities have advised a delay in re-opening schools, many of our community’s headteachers, governors, and senior school management staff feel they have been forced to make decisions without sufficient support or guidance from Kingston Council.
Although the lockdown has begun to ease, the Education Secretary has dropped plans to further re-open schools before September. We believe that the NEU’s National Recovery Plan for Education should form the benchmark by which schools re-open in Kingston-upon-Thames.
I am including a document outlining the NEU’s National Recovery Plan alongside this letter. It is possible for Kingston Council to show leadership by following many of its recommendations.
This should include:
- Allocating public buildings for use as extra classroom space to make social distancing possible;
- Encouraging schools to make preparations for blended learning, which would entail some in-school lessons and supplying teaching resources and materials for home-schooling;
- Ensuring that all school laptops have been shared or loaned with disadvantaged households, to help children who do not have access to certain types of technology;
- Issuing a call-out for retired qualified teachers to help manage reduced class size.
There are some actions that Kingston Council will not be able to take without additional, dedicated government funding. We advise that, as a local authority, your administration calls on the government to:
- Guarantee that children from low-income households receive free school meals over the summer holidays;
- Fund local authority-run summer holiday programmes to help children needing to catch up with their education;
- Establish a well-being programme for children who have suffered trauma as a result of the pandemic.
It is equally imperative that all A-Level and GCSE examinations are suitably adapted to ensure fair assessment, which does not disadvantage students as a result of the pandemic.
It is well-known that attendance has been low since the phased re-opening of primary schools earlier this month. We have heard from many local parents, guardians, and educators that are deeply concerned about the current situation and in need of reassurance. We urge you to take onboard our advice as an immediate priority.
Chair for Kingston & Surbiton Labour