Since the coronavirus outbreak in March, schools have been operating at a very limited capacity. For the vast majority of pupils, this has meant missing months of education and social development.
Last week, in the House of Commons, I pressed the Women & Equalities Minister Liz Truss on whether the Government could commit to getting every child back to school in September. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has since confirmed the Government's plan to get pupils of all ages back in the classroom for a full five days a week in September.
It has been fantastic to see more children in Gloucestershire returning to lessons in recent weeks. Thanks to the hard work of local teachers, staff and school governors, 85% of Gloucestershire primary schools have now expanded their offer for Reception, Year 1 & Year 6, and we have seen the number of keyworker and vulnerable children attending school almost double since the start June.
But there is more to do if we are going to get every pupil back into the classroom in a way that reassures pupils, staff and parents alike.
Last Friday, I had a virtual meeting with the Headteacher and Chairman of Governors at Offa’s Mead Primary Academy as well as the Chief Executive of the school’s Academy Trust.
It was a useful meeting where I learned about how the school had kept educating the children of key workers and vulnerable children during the peak of the virus and the steps they have taken to safely get selected year groups back into the classroom.
I will continue to engage with schools in the Forest of Dean, raising any concerns with the Department for Education and ensuring that they can reopen with confidence in September.
I am also visiting businesses across the Forest of Dean over the coming weeks to see how they are reopening. Last week, I looked at how retail was resuming in Cinderford. It was great to see the steps being taken to allow people to shop in a Covid-secure way that protects staff and customers.
I’m looking forward to visiting more businesses around my constituency and encouraging everyone to shop local.