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Government criticised over handling of Covid in schools

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WARRINGTON Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Cllr. Sarah Hall has written to the Secretary of State for Education to raise concerns about the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 Omicron variant in schools.

Cllr. Hall said: “I wrote to the Secretary of State for Education to raise the serious concerns I have about the Government’s response to the Omicron variant in our schools.

“Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic schools and colleges across Warrington have worked tirelessly to support their students in the face of considerable challenges. I am incredibly proud of all of our education settings and, as a local authority, Warrington Borough Council continues to do all that we can to support them through these most difficult of times.

“However, as anybody working in education will have noticed, too often the Government’s action throughout the pandemic has fallen far short of what our schools and colleges have needed. Too often our children have been an afterthought and the Government’s response to Omicron has been no different.

“Ventilation and air quality in schools has been an issue raised with successive Education Secretaries. I’m pleased that the Government finally recognises the importance of air filtration devices, at least in principle. But getting the Government to take action is another matter entirely — in Warrington we have schools who have still not received the CO2 monitors that were promised last year.

“Without adequate ventilation, schools have no choice but to open windows as temperatures plummets. It is completely unacceptable to ask children and staff to wear coats next to open windows in the depths of winter, because the Government has failed to get adequate ventilation systems in place.

“If the Department of Education means only to offer 7,000 air purifiers to a country with over 300,000 classrooms, this will barely scratch the surface. And if they expect schools to pick up the tab from already-stretched budgets, they add insult to injury — especially as many schools are already struggling with the cost of supply teachers to cover staff absence having received no extra money from Government.

“Many headteachers are also questioning why the air purifiers the Government has selected are so expensive, when a reviewer like Which? gives dozens of far cheaper, similarly effective models. We’d like to know that Warrington’s schools are getting value for money.

“Germany and some US states invested millions in ventilation and air-cleaning for their schools and public buildings back in 2020, so we’re really playing catch-up.

“Warrington’s schools want to ventilate their classrooms properly, slow the spread of COVID-19, and keep children in face-to-face education.

“Time and time again, the Conservative Government has failed to prioritise schools and failed to give our staff the recognition they deserve. It is high time the Government stopped treating our children as an afterthought and started acting in their best interests.”


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