Call to Action – school closures by stealth

There are a concerning number of reports coming through about schools implementing their own ‘firebreak’ closures, and of schools continuing to send whole and in some cases very large year groups home. The situation is ridiculous and for many kids is now closures by the back door.
Please send this Call to Action TODAY.
To c.whitty@nhs.net
Please also send a copy to your own MP stating that you are a constituent.
17 November 2020
Dear Sirs and Madam,
School closures by Stealth
I am writing as a concerned parent and as member of campaign group UsforThem. I want to express my ongoing dismay about the isolation and testing regime in schools.
I first wrote to you about this matter a month ago. I expressed my concern that many healthy children around the country, children who have already missed half a year of schooling, were about to be forced into further periods of self-isolation because children in their bubble – with whom they may have had no contact at all – had tested positive for coronavirus. I referred to a BMJ Rapid response article by Dr Ellie Cannon and Dr Sunil Bhopal in which they urged the English Chief Medical Officer and Public Health colleagues “to act urgently at a national and local level to prevent mass school-exclusion without good grounds. Until this is rectified, it is not accurate to say schools are open.”
Since then, not only has the situation in schools not ameliorated, it’s worsened. The figures on the DfE website show that a shocking number of healthy children – c. 350k by my calculations – are consistently off school each week due to the rules on the need for healthy children who have been in contact with a suspected case to isolate. A study published by Oxford University this week makes clear the severe issues facing families and in particular children when they are unable to attend school – it says “our finding raise concerns about the impact of ongoing disruption to schooling that many children are dealing with”.
Unfortunately the problem is set to get worse still with the introduction of mass testing: I understand that UsforThem now have reports of multiple “whole school” firebreak closures and of schools who continue to send entire year groups home. Some schools are now asking pupils who display any symptoms of any illness, whether or not this bears any resemblance to Covid-19, to stay at home until they are able to prove a negative test.
This is ridiculous. The net effect of this regime is an unsustainable, disproportionate and damaging situation that is further damaging children’s health, education and wellbeing – which has already been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus response.
Gavin Williamson spoke publicly two weeks ago about the need to keep schools open and to put pupils first. He said “when it comes to our children there really is nothing we wouldn’t do to make sure they get the education they deserve. The wellbeing and long-term future of all our young people is a national priority and they’ve already lost crucial learning time.”
The rules on isolation and testing make a mockery of these words. Please can you now address your urgent attention to coming up with a solution which does what the Education Secretary says publicly is important – keeps kids in school. Our children deserve a Government that puts children first in practice as well as in newspaper print.
Yours sincerely