BBC host Fiona Bruce interrupted Lisa Nandy to ask her what the Labour Party’s position is on schools reopening. She noted that the Shadow Cabinet don’t want schools to reopen without strict safety measures. Ms Bruce asked: “Lisa, is Labour’s position slightly confusing? You have the Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey saying only last week that it was welcome that the Government was rowing back from full school reopening plans before summer.”
Speaking on the show, Ms Nandy said: “It’s welcome that they’re not trying to force schools to reopen when it’s not safe to do so.
“This is why a month ago we were calling for the Government to have an exit strategy from lockdown and to start working on that now.
“The countries who have managed to get children back to school more quickly were planning for this several months ago.
“They’ve also done a lot more to get support to children in the meantime so, when children do go back to school, we aren’t dealing with this massive attainment gap.”
READ MORE: Dr Hilary Jones issues stark warning about school closures
It comes as the majority of heads in special schools say they have struggled to get hold of adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a growing demand, a survey suggests
More than four in five (87 percent) school leaders who support children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) said it has been necessary to increase the use of PPE in schools during the pandemic.
But more than half (51 percent) have experienced difficulties obtaining adequate supplies of PPE, according to the poll by school leaders’ union the NAHT.
The findings have been released as more children across England return to the classroom. Secondary schools and colleges opened their doors to Year 10 and Year 12 pupils for face-to-face support this week.
Schools, colleges and nurseries closed more than 12 weeks ago due to the Covid-19 outbreak, remaining open only for vulnerable youngsters and the children of key workers.
A poll, of more than 575 leaders of special schools and alternative provision, found that 73% say the Government’s guidance on the use of PPE does not meet the needs of pupils and staff in their school.
The survey found that 80 percent of leaders felt that some pupils might not be able to communicate whether they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, and 61 percent said it would be difficult to maintain necessary staff-to-pupil ratios to meet additional requirements – like handwashing and staggered breaks.
One respondent of the survey told the NAHT: “Many of our children present with challenging behaviour and very few (if any) understand social distancing. They often mouth items, have no understanding of the risks associated, and our school could end up a centre of disease transmission.”
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Another school leader said: “Russian roulette is being played with SEN school staff and students.”
The current Government PPE guidance for education settings does not take into consideration the level of medical provision regularly required in special schools, the school leaders’ union says.
Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “The Government’s official policy for special schools is insufficient. Schools have been told they should not need additional PPE to keep staff and children safe, but our members are telling us the opposite, with the majority reporting an increase in need.”
He warned: “Not enough attention has been paid to the needs of special schools during the coronavirus crisis. The Government must step up to protect our most vulnerable children by providing comprehensive specialist advice and sufficient suitable PPE.”