On 15th October, Bath MP Wera Hobhouse hosted her latest virtual public meeting on the topic “Education: Staying Safe in the Time of Covid”.
Her guests represented education from primary school through to university. They called for early engagement and clear, consistent and timely guidance from the Government to ensure that education institutions can remain open safely for as long as Covid presents a threat.
Wera Hobhouse said: “Education and the safety of our community touch every one of us. Since March, my office has received hundreds of emails on education-related topics. I feel deeply for everyone whose education and teaching has been disrupted. Our local schools, universities and BANES Council have done an amazing job in these challenging times.
“Compared to many other places, we have been very fortunate in Bath in terms of Covid. We all have a collective responsibility to keep the number of cases low.”
Sue Adams, Headteacher of Roundhill Primary School said:
“One of the biggest issues we faced was the provision of Free School Meals. We were delivering up to 75 packed lunches per day, which was becoming unsustainable, and then we had to move over to the voucher system. Government directives were constantly changing, which was a real challenge for leaders and the constant pressure meant that staff were becoming exhausted.”
Andy Greenhough, headteacher at Ralph Allen School said:
“For our pupils, the isolation from their peers for many months was the main issue. There’s no doubt that young people’s mental health has been impacted. We had a conversation with each of our students before we came back to school in September to make sure they have the ongoing support they need.”
Wera Hobhouse has advocated for teacher assessments to replace exams this year.
Andy Greenhough commented: “Exams or teacher assessments can work for us. We can make it work. Just tell us, and we’ll get on with it.”
Professor Bernie Morley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, University of Bath, talked about the need for consultation from the Government and set out the many changes that the university has made over the past months to ensure a safe return of students this autumn.
He said: “Education is so important for all of our young people. Our responsibility is to do everything possible to keep our students, staff and local residents safe and to provide a Covid-secure environment for studying, living and working. We are working closely with Bath Spa University to ensure that our ‘Be Safe’ guidelines for our student communities are upheld. We have created Covid-secure spaces on campus where students can safely spend time together outdoors. Students who are isolating due to Covid are receiving healthy meals, activities, online exercise classes and support for their mental wellbeing.”
Francesco Masala, President of the Student Union at the University of Bath, outlined the support that the Student Union has provided to students since Covid struck: “Our main goal is for our students to live safely within the community. The overwhelming majority of students are abiding by the rules.”
Councillor Kevin Guy, BANES Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, highlighted the additional support for young people’s mental health being delivered through a new wellbeing service in partnership with CAMHS. He added: “I wrote to the Secretary of State yesterday, with regards to exams, because our schools, universities and colleges can’t plan unless they get clear instruction from central Government and I know they’re in a very difficult position at the moment. If I do have a criticism of the Government, it’s the lack of clarification.”
Wera Hobhouse pledged to continue to work with local schools and universities and to champion their needs in Westminster.
Watch the full event here:
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