Labour County Councillors in Suffolk are backing calls for the government to protect the safety of pupils with a gradual return to classrooms.

Labour’s opposition spokesperson for education, Cllr Jack Abbott, has expressed concern that sending all children back to school straight away, dubbed a ‘big bang’ reopening, could see a return of high coronavirus infection levels in schools seen in December. Jack Abbott said:

“Of course we want children back in the classroom when possible, but we also have to be pragmatic and cautious. If the government has a ‘big bang’ reopening of schools, as has been reported, it could set us back and undermine all of the sacrifices that have been made.

“Instead, the government must seriously look at ‘blended learning’, essentially a rota system where some pupils are in school for one week and then learning at home the next. This flexibility would help keep class sizes low and make testing manageable, while ensuring that every pupil can receive some face-to-face contact time. It may also reduce the transmission of the virus.

“I don’t want to go back to a repeat of what we had in Suffolk before Christmas, where nearly a 1,000 pupils a week were having to be isolated. Not only was this hugely disruptive for those children who missed out on their education, but parents were also having to change their working hours at the last minute. Blended learning may help reduce those absences and give families certainty.”

In East Suffolk, coronavirus infection rates continue to fall. In the seven days to February 15, the infection rate was 81.4 per 100,000 people. This was a reduction from 99 per 100,000 in the previous seven days.

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