Local Authorities are at the forefront of supporting families and schools during these unprecedented times. They are calling for greater support for local authorities to help vulnerable families, free school meals to be provided throughout the school holidays and for local authorities to be given a role in co-ordinating with schools, trade unions and the DfE on a safe end to school closure.
The NEU Councillors Network also fully supports the National Education Union call to only see a return to schools when the evidence says it is safe to do so.
Cllr Maggie Browning, Southwark Council (Dulwich Hill) and NEU Councillors Network London Convenor, said:
"Local authorities have been at the forefront of supporting children and their families throughout this crisis and the school closure period. It is essential that the Government steps up and ensures there is the necessary funding to ensure disadvantaged young people do not lose out, including by providing vouchers for Free School Meals throughout the summer holidays. The school closure should only end when it is safe to do so and the Government should work with schools and local authorities to coordinate this."
Commenting on the letter, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"The Government is taking an approach which is nothing short of reckless in considering the wider opening of schools from 1 June. This puts everyone connected to the school community in a very difficult position, in preparing for the re-opening of schools when they simply do not think it is safe. The profession and parents are as one on this issue, and today's letter to Gavin Williamson from so many councillors shows that the strength of feeling is widespread.
"We share the concerns councillors have raised in this letter regarding the summer period and how this can affect the most vulnerable in society, children and adults alike. We agree that local authorities have to play a lead role in coordinating any phased return for schools. The Government would do well to listen to their deep concerns."
Dear Gavin Williamson MP,
As local councillors, we are writing to raise concerns in relation to current school closures.
The first issue is our concern about the impact school closures are having on disadvantaged students and their families
Students eligible for free school meals (FSM) have had mixed experiences when applying for the Government’s voucher scheme, with some unable to access vouchers to which they are entitled. We would like your assurances that all families with children eligible for FSM will receive vouchers for the full period of school closure, including school holidays. This may need to be in retrospect for families who have not yet been able to access their vouchers.
We would ask that the Department for Education (DfE) continues to work with local authorities who are at the forefront of supporting families facing unprecedented food insecurity in the current climate.
As you will know, holiday hunger is an issue for many families and we would like your assurances that families eligible for FSM will be given food vouchers to sustain them during the summer holidays. We believe that this should become a permanent fixture within our school system, so no child need go hungry during the school holidays again.
We also have concerns about support for vulnerable children and the increased calls to domestic violence helplines nationally. We would ask that the Government continue to work with local authorities and schools to ensure vulnerable children do not ‘slip through the net’ and the necessary financial support is available to councils to support families fleeing domestic violence.
Finally, we are concerned by the current speculation on the end to school closures. We find current speculation unhelpful but would like to support the calls from the teaching profession that schools only be reopened when it is safe to do so, for both teachers and students.
We also ask that local authorities be given a role in coordinating with schools, trade unions and the DfE on a safe end to school closures.
We hope that the Government will continue to collaborate closely with local councils to support families and schools as we weather the current crisis and its aftermath. This will require an end to austerity and a new, long-term, funding settlement for local authorities and schools, to ensure they are best equipped going forward.