Press Release – 18 May 2020

Luton MP Sarah Owen urges government to approach with caution on plans to reopen schools

Luton North MP Sarah Owen has today urged the government to listen to the concerns of parents and teachers and put school safety first, as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson sets a June 1st deadline for reopening of schools amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, the Luton North MP called on the government “to publish the evidence and modelling that it is using to plan for the proposed reopening from SAGE, Public Health England, the government’s senior scientific and medical advisors” and ensure that comprehensive plans for proper provisions of testing, enhanced school cleaning and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies are in place.

This comes as an IFS survey showed little enthusiasm among parents for a return to the classroom: just 39% of primary school parents and 45% of secondary school parents said they would send their children back if they had a choice.

Owen is joining Labour colleagues in urging the Government to urgently work collaboratively with teaching unions to create clear conditions, based on more testing, protections for the most vulnerable and a much lower number of covid-19 cases, so that every school can implement them to ensure a safe return.

Luton North’s Labour MP Sarah Owen commented:

“We all want pupils back in school. We know that the longer schools are closed, the wider the gap between children in better-off families and children in the poorest households grows. But we need to listen to parents and teachers who have been telling me that pupils can only return when it is safe for them to do so.”

“This has been a testing time for the teaching profession. Teaching staff have gone above and beyond to adapt during this crisis to the needs of their pupils. Many schools, including in Luton, have even been using their design & tech facilities to produce crucial supplies of PPE for frontline workers. We also know that parents are worried about their children missing crucial time in school, with pupils missing important exams.”

“Right now, people are anxious about too hastily lifting measures that have so far drastically slowed the spread of coronavirus. Teachers have a right to feel safe at work, and parents must have confidence that their child is safe at school. Any risk of a second spike in infections is unthinkable. I am urging the government to proceed with absolute caution when it comes to reopening schools over the next few weeks and put the safety of teachers, pupils and their families at home first.”