From education to employment

COVID Winter Plan: Sector Reaction

The Liberal Democrats are calling on Boris Johnson to give a “cast-iron guarantee” to parents that schools will not be shut again as part of the Government’s Covid winter plan, after the chaos of the last year which saw pupils miss out on 33 million days of schooling (@EdwardJDavey).

The Liberal Democrats are also calling for more funding to ensure schools can stay open safely as Covid cases rise, including to improve ventilation and install an air purifier in every classroom. 

The Government still refuses to fund these vital safety measures, and instead suggested children learn outside in the cold during the winter months. 

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said:

“Our children have been failed by the Conservatives throughout this pandemic. Pupils have missed out on millions of days of vital teaching and their parents have been left to pick up the pieces.

“Boris Johnson must give a cast-iron guarantee to parents that schools will remain open this winter so that younger generations aren’t let down yet again.

“More funding and equipment is urgently needed to ensure schools can stay open safely, including providing an air purifier in every classroom.

“Instead, Gavin Williamson’s master plan so far seems to be forcing our children to learn out in the cold. Our children deserve better than this.”

Commenting as the government sets out its plan for tackling Covid during the autumn and winter, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Today’s winter plan represents another missed opportunity when it comes to schools. The government should be acting with a far greater sense of urgency when it comes to making classrooms as safe as possible.

“The current plans to get CO2 monitors into classrooms by the end of term are simply too slow and need to be accelerated. Equally, plans should be in place now to support schools where poor ventilation is identified.

“If the government is serious about minimising disruption to education, it should be moving heaven and earth to make classrooms as safe as possible and to minimise the risk of transmission. Sadly, there is a sense of inevitability that the current ‘wait and see’ approach will lead to further and unnecessary disruption in the coming months.”

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief Policy Director, said:

“For the Winter Plan A to be a success, the government needs to learn the lessons of the summer to ensure people are confident in living with virus.

“Key to this will be boosting the confidence of workers to go to work; of customers to go to shops; and of businesses to stay open.

“Business is clear that the government must leave no stone unturned in its efforts to keep the economy open. The UK’s world leading vaccine programme should underpin these efforts, but just as important will be maximising the role that monitoring, therapeutics and free, mass testing can play in driving confidence.  

“The government can also support responsible businesses by utilising all the available covid secure tools at our disposal, from good hygiene and ventilation processes to the use of face coverings.

“Finally, confidence requires certainty. Clear forward guidance for firms about what measures will be introduced under Plan B should infection rates rise will maximise their ability to plan with certainty. Transparency about how and when those decisions will be made is essential.”  

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