Pippa Heylings: our appreciation for the huge effort South Cambs schools have put into reopening

As schools go back this week, Cllr Pippa Heylings (Histon & Impington), Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for South East Cambs, looks back at everything that Heads, teachers and all school staff have had to deal with over the past six months, and we're sure speaks for a great many of us in voicing her gratitude.

"Schools, colleges and early years settings across Cambridgeshire will be reopening this week, and this will mean so much to so many children and young people. I want to share our appreciation for the huge effort that has gone into making this possible in such challenging circumstances.

Yes, quite rightly there is frustration that the government guidelines on safely and a full reopening were issued so late and on the Bank Holiday weekend just before the first day of term. Once again, there was a failure to engage early and collaboratively with Heads and teachers on these rules, despite repeated requests over the last few months.

Nevertheless, we know very well that Heads and teachers had already been working flat-out all summer, to get schools as safe and ready as possible for the start of what will be an unprecedented teaching year for all. In fact, they have been working flat-out since before lockdown, to provide a safe teaching environment for key worker children, whilst also ensuring at lightning speed that all students at home had online support, education and counselling.

Then, those in secondary schools, sixth forms and B Tech colleges worked even harder to fulfil government guidelines and draw together all the information required to produce individual Centre Assessment Grades. They  then had to support students and families through the terrible and unfair anguish that followed the disastrous decision to apply the Ofqual algorithm rather than trust teachers' judgement. Following the U-turn, it is schools, colleges and universities that are now faced with resolving the mess created.

All this whilst preparing new conditions and timetabling to ensure a safe return for students this week. This is a time of uncertainty about a potential spike in COVID infections and the likelihood of local outbreaks. Schools and colleges are preparing for these scenarios too, always with the best interests of our children and young people at heart.

There are many media stories about parents not sending their children to school. However, recent polling suggests that most parents do trust that schools are doing everything they can and they will send their children back. Our Heads and teaching staff are the key workers we need to support and thank now. They continue to be on the frontline as they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. We thank you all."

Cllr Pippa Heylings, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for South East Cambridgeshire

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