Councillor calls for meeting to scrutinise Hertfordshire’s return to school plans

She has asked for an urgent meeting of the council's 'special cabinet panel'

Friday, 28th August 2020, 10:54 am
Updated Friday, 28th August 2020, 10:58 am

Leading Labour councillor Judi Billing has called for an opportunity for councillors to scrutinise plans for the re-opening of schools, before the start of the autumn term.

Cllr Billing – who is leader of the Labour group on Hertfordshire County Council – says she has been contacted by parents, teachers and school staff.

And she has asked for an urgent meeting of the county council’s ‘special cabinet panel’ so their concerns can be discussed.

School stock image

She says that at lack of clear advice is leading to worry and confusion.

And she says that while parents ‘desperately’ want their children to return to the classroom, they are nervous too.

“This is a huge moment for the children of Hertfordshire and their parents,” said Cllr Billing, who is also a member of North Herts District Council.

“And we shouldn’t be taking it so lightly when these families are coping with different advice that changes every day.”

Cllr Billing stresses that in the current situation she does not expect there to be “full clarity”, but she says she is concerned that there is ‘no clear advice’.

And, by example, she points to uncertainty around the requirement to wear face coverings in schools.

However executive member for education, libraries and localism Cllr Terry Douris has ruled out an additional meeting.

He says schools have already been issued with a great deal of advice, information and guidance in relation to Covid-19.

And – with a meeting of the education, libraries and localism cabinet panel already scheduled for September 8 – he said there was nothing to be gained by an additional meeting.

He said he understood that parents may be nervous, but he said evidence suggested that school was now ‘a very safe place to be’.

He said the chance of any child – particularly at primary school – picking up the virus at school was ‘minute’. And, he said, if there was a danger action would be taken.

He said: “I share the view of the government, as it stands at the present time, that it’s a safe place to be.”

Meanwhile Cllr Douris also stressed the academic and social needs for children to return to the classroom.

“It’s important to stress children have been out of school – from normal full time education – for the best part of six months,” he said.

“And it’s important to get children back in to school and continue with their education in as normal a way as possible, so they don’t fall behind – or fall any further behind if they have.”

Cllr Billing initially asked for an August meeting of the panel in July. And this week she renewed her calls in writing.