Western Morning News
Parents ‘won’t be fined’ for keeping children at home
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.”