Barking and Dagenham education chief demands more Covid-19 action to protect schools

Town hall education chiefs have demanded more action to keep schools safe in the pandemic. Picture: Jacob King/PA

Town hall education chiefs have demanded more action to keep schools safe in the pandemic. Picture: Jacob King/PA - Credit: PA

The town hall’s education chief has demanded the government do more to protect schools from Covid-19.

Evelyn Carpenter. Picture: LBBD

Evelyn Carpenter. Picture: LBBD - Credit: Archant

Cllr Evelyn Carpenter, cabinet member for educational attainment and school improvement, joined 18 counterparts from London boroughs in calling for a range of measures.

These include providing money to hire cover teachers to replace self-isolating staff; the same access to Covid-19 tests as NHS workers and free school meals to cover holiday periods.

The education chiefs also urged the government to honour a promise to supply laptops and wifi for children from deprived backgrounds who are isolating at home.

The demands were sent to education secretary Gavin Williamson in a letter which states: “We are extremely proud of the efforts to keep learning made by our children, their families and the education staff who support them.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA. - Credit: PA

“As we are sure you would agree, our collective duty as the local and central government is to give them the tools they need to continue to do this most important work as safely as is possible.”

Cllr Carpenter said: “Covid-19 and the measures taken to prevent its spread have had a devastating effect on the health, wellbeing and education of the children we support.

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“Our schools are facing huge funding pressures arising from the pandemic. We must be supported by national government to protect the safety of our families and school staff.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “On average, costs to schools to become covid-secure will have been a relatively small proportion of their core funding for each pupil, which for secondary schools has increased to a minimum of £5,150, the first year of the biggest increase to core school funding in a decade.

“On top of the core funding schools are receiving, and continued to receive throughout the pandemic, we provide pupil premium funding worth £2.4billion each year to support the most disadvantaged pupils.

“Our £1bn covid catch up fund has provision both for additional tutoring targeted at the most disadvantaged, and flexible funding for schools to use to help all their pupils make up for lost education.”

In the week up to November 6, 42 out of 60 schools in Barking and Dagenham recorded coronavirus cases.

A total of 80 staff have tested positive and 170 were off for virus related reasons, a November 10 meeting of the town hall’s health board heard.

In total, 109 pupils tested positive with 918 youngsters self-isolating.