Teachers across Cheltenham have worked tirelessly through this lockdown and those before it to provide quality education to our children and young people under challenging conditions.
We know that, in the current circumstances, closing schools to most pupils is a necessary decision for the sake of public health.
The most recent closures, however, were chaotically handled - with information about the closures delivered without sufficient notice, and guidance changing suddenly on many occasions with limited explanation for the changes from the Government.
Education is key for all young people - but we know that not all homeschooling experiences in these times are created equal. Young people face a lack of suitable equipment and workspaces, key mental health support and access to learning resources - which serve as barriers to their long term success.
It is clear that schools need to return to normal as soon as it is safe to do so - but to do that, teachers need to be included in a priority group for covid-19 vaccinations.
Lib Dem MPs in Parliament have called for this to happen - alongside working to secure food vouchers, not low-quality food parcels for children who need free school meals - but the Government has yet to support this vital policy.
You can read my letter to our local Conservative MP, Alex Chalk, below.
I’m writing to you to reflect the concerns of Cheltenham teachers and families over the government’s approach to Covid-19 in schools. It seems that the decision to close schools to most pupils was regrettable but necessary in the circumstances, though I hope the government will learn lessons from the way school closures were handled.
The chaotic decision-making process caused stress and anxiety for many teachers, parents and children at a time when so many are already struggling with their mental health.
I understand that teachers, who are overburdened at the best of times, are currently feeling hugely undervalued. Meanwhile, children are suffering too, whether they are missing their friends, missing out on sport, or lacking an adequate daily routine.
Throughout the course of this lockdown and after, there will be an increasing need for more mental health provision in schools and for young people in general. You will have doubtless heard the same disturbing stories as me.
I urge you to take this matter to the government and secure more resources.
Every day of education lost for any child is hugely difficult to overcome, but the impact in these circumstances will be even harder to recover from. However, there are also matters relating to equality.
While many children will have homes equipped with computers and books, many in our town will not. Furthermore, and perhaps even more concerning, many children are reliant on school attendance to receive a daily nutritious meal.
The school meals campaign by Marcus Rashford and others highlighted this issue and I know you personally conceded that the ‘optics were bad’.
Given the dire need to return schools to normal operations as soon as possible, I, therefore, request that you also make representations to the government to place teachers in a priority group for vaccinations. It is vital that teachers are able to have confidence in the system and peace of mind for their own health, as well as the ability to feel they can do their jobs safely without putting others at risk.
I know the National Education Union and other groups representing teachers have made reasonable representations on these matters.
I hope you will work with them on practical solutions to the problems we all face.
Agree? Sign this petition to show your support for including teachers as part of a priority group for covid-19 vaccinations.