In My View - Opening Schools Safely is Key for Children and Teachers

There are a number of important Government issues being worked on this week and yet it is slightly surreal in what remains a time of great anxiety for many of us, with meetings conducted over Zoom or Skype as we all look for ways to move forward. It is only natural that as changes about the coronavirus restrictions are announced, whether it be the phased reopening of schools, plans for the travel industry or a wide range of other things, we all think about our own families, our relatives who need us the most, jobs and security.

Thanks to the tremendous efforts and sacrifices made by so many people the rate of transmission of the Coronavirus has now fallen to a point where the roadmap to start to get things back to normal can be followed but only if numbers of cases continue to fall and that is really key. We can’t ignore though the cost to people’s lives of the restrictions and I think that schools and also preschools are important in this. The Department for Education is working really hard with teachers to set in place plans to minimise the risks.

Based on successful trials in Denmark, now being followed in many other European countries, the model accepts that social distancing for children is unreliable so instead works with ‘bubbles’ which limit the number of other children and adults there is potential contact with. Children are generally in a very low risk category and obviously there will be an emphasis on hygiene.

Working parents have had a hard time trying to juggle things and many will be relieved at the news but I think it’s also worth thinking about the hugely positive impact that our schools have on children’s lives. It is also sadly the case that children from tougher backgrounds will be falling further behind at this time with less access to online learning and often less structure in their day. Having said that I know that parents and teachers will have concerns and I will do what I can to work with the Government on getting the best possible guidance on that.

Agriculture and Trade Bills are working their way through the Parliamentary system at the moment and both really set in place scope for opportunities to come. We will continue to lead the world in animal welfare issues and I want particularly to focus on ways to help our farmers make the most of new markets through trade deals, innovation and marketing, as well as help meeting environmental and wellbeing objectives. We have just published a tariff schedule which looks to simplify import duties and reduce administration and is a promising sign of things to come. I am catching up with the local Chamber of Commerce this week and as we hopefully start to come out of this difficult time I want to work on making more of the Somerset and Great South West brands, our heritage and the natural beauty of our part of the world.