Western Morning News

Parents ‘won’t be fined’ for keeping children at home

- SARAH ELMES sarah.elmes@reachplc.com

PARENTS and carers in Plymouth ‘will not be fined’ for keeping children at home in January due to increasing Covid-19 cases in the city, the leader of the city council has confirmed.

More and more schools across Devon and Cornwall are choosing to temporaril­y shut and move to online learning, as pressure increased over the weekend from leading teachers’ unions for staff to stay at home.

On Sunday night, Cllr Tudor Evans, chair of Plymouth’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board, wrote to the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson urging the Government to ‘show clear leadership’ as more schools chose to shut to protect teachers, staff and pupils.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said parents should send primaryage children back to schools which remain open this week, despite growing calls from unions to close them.

In the letter, Cllr Evans confirmed the council’s advice to schools would be to shut and move to virtual classrooms if they did not have sufficient staff available to keep schools safe.

The city council leader added that parents would not be fined for keeping their children at home.

He wrote: “Parents, teachers and headteache­rs in Plymouth are rightly, seriously concerned about the Government’s insistence that schools reopen when virus spread across England is at an all-time high.

“It is hugely disappoint­ing that the Government has failed to show clear leadership and refuses to engage constructi­vely with headteache­rs’ and trade unions’ legitimate concerns about the reopening of potentiall­y unsafe schools. This failure to engage constructi­vely means that in Plymouth we now find ourselves in a situation where we cannot be sure that there will be enough teachers and school staff for all schools to reopen safely this week, causing huge inconvenie­nce and upheaval for parents.

“In Plymouth, we have been working constructi­vely with schools and headteache­rs, to ensure that schools are as safe as possible throughout the pandemic. Given the potential for a significan­tly depleted workforce this week, Plymouth City Council will be advising primary schools that if they face significan­t staff shortages, and cannot achieve full opening safely, then they should prioritise opening for vulnerable children and for the children of critical workers.

“We will absolutely not support the reopening of any schools where risk assessment­s suggest this cannot be done safely or where there are not enough staff to teach and safeguard children.

“The resulting inconvenie­nce for parents will be entirely down to the Government.

“Therefore, each school’s governing body will have to decide what it plans to do based on its risk assessment and in response to the staffing situation over the next few days. Parents are being advised to check their emails, their child’s school website and social media feeds for the latest updates.

“At this time, we are clear that we will not be issuing fines to parents who choose to keep their children at home if they have concerns about Covid-19.

“In Plymouth, we believe that fully re-opening schools in a sustainabl­e and safe way should be a top priority for the Government and prioritisi­ng teachers and school staff for Covid19 vaccinatio­n is an essential step.”

 ?? Dan Kitwood ?? A number of schools in the Westcountr­y and across England did not open to pupils at the start of term yesterday
Dan Kitwood A number of schools in the Westcountr­y and across England did not open to pupils at the start of term yesterday

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