Statement from Cllr Angela Mason on reopening schools in Camden
Councillor Angela Mason, Cabinet Member for Best Start for Children and Families at Camden Council, provides an update on our close work with governing bodies, teachers, school unions, public health colleagues and parents to assess the safety of a gradual return to school for pupils.
We always talk about our family of schools in Camden – and in tough times like these, this family needs our support more than ever. Our headteachers, teachers and school staff have been doing amazing work to keep children engaged and learning – delivering paper school work to homes, calling families, delivering food packages, supporting their pupils through an unprecedented national crisis.
Being in education is important for all children, and in particular for the future outcomes of children who have fewer advantages in life – but we also understand and appreciate that parents and teachers have real concerns about the return to school. In these unprecedented circumstances, it is our duty to fully support headteachers and governing bodies to ensure they are able to put complete safety measures in place, which will allow a gradual return to school in a safe and sustainable way. This isn’t about meeting an arbitrary national deadline, but finding the right balance for schools, pupils and families of safety and access to learning and support.
Through Camden Learning, our local Public Heath team and health and safety advisors, we are working closely with headteachers, governing bodies and local teaching unions, to carefully discuss what can be done to ensure children’s and staff’s safety to build the confidence of everyone involved. Every school has been asked to complete a detailed risk assessment to help them with preparations, which will give both schools and us a clear idea of the risks and where further support is needed.
We know that our headteachers and governing bodies know their individual schools best. We will stand by our schools and the ultimate decisions they make to manage a gradual return to school for children, which will be based on what is best for children and on public health evidence and advice. It is also a decision for parents, and our schools are best placed to have discussions with parents who might have concerns about their children returning, including the impact on vulnerable or shielding people at home.
It is important to stress that schools and early years settings in Camden have remained open during the lockdown, and schools are currently providing classroom education for nearly 1,000 pupils, including the children of key workers and vulnerable children. Teachers and support staff have shown enormous resilience to adapt to this situation and through the continuing close cooperation of all partners, we will begin to take further steps forward. It is important we all continue to work together, focused on what is right for Camden schools, teachers and staff, pupils, families and communities.