Covid-19: Educational Settings

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:22 pm on 6th January 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education) 1:22 pm, 6th January 2021

We should not, of course, be surprised at this latest U-turn on schools. Any student teacher knows that planning is a key skill, but it is one that the Secretary of State has yet to master. His decisions have been made in a reactionary and last-minute manner. Schools in England have predictably gone from being open, with threats of legal action if they are closed, to being snapped shut in an instant, giving parents no time to put in place arrangements.

Let me say to all Members that we need to be careful about this narrative that children are falling behind. They are falling behind only on an external scale that we have defined for them. We cannot use the same metrics this year as we have before. Much as we all want schools to be open, young people are learning other skills too. That said, it is good to hear that the BBC is producing educational resources. Can the Secretary of State confirm whether there will be resources available for the Scottish curriculum at national 5, higher and advanced higher level?

Teachers are fed up with politicians paying tribute to them one minute and sending them into unsafe environments the next. The risk posed to children in school is small—we have evidence for that—but as the Prime Minister said earlier, pupils can act as vectors, and let us be clear that if a member of staff in a school catches covid, there is increased strain on the remaining staff, so it should not be only high-risk staff who are vaccinated. Before we talk about opening schools, we need a clear position on vaccinations for teachers and school staff. The First Minister has committed to look at that. The Secretary of State has said that he will do everything he can to ensure that schools open, so will he ensure that teachers are a priority for vaccination so that schools can open with confidence?

Finally, there are many students who are now learning at home completely and are not going to return to university after Christmas. They still have to pay for university accommodation. What support will the Secretary of State look at giving to those young people who have to pay out in that manner?