Layla Moran, Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and Education Spokesperson, has today [Saturday 21 March] written to the Education Secretary with key questions that have so far gone unanswered following the announcement that education settings will close due to coronavirus.
Moran included many questions and concerns raised by parents, school staff, childminders and others in her constituency, as well as feedback from others across the country, saying “I hope my questions and the answers from the Government will serve to improve the online guidance they have published”.
Among the questions raised, Layla raised the anxieties of childcare providers, many of whom will not pay all staff during the closure period and are unsure as to whether they can claim financial support from the Treasury.
The Oxford MP also urged Gavin Williamson to “not forget about children’s and youth services”, asking “What financial and other support is the Government offering them?”
Layla also asked for clarity on whether children living in temporary accommodation are classed as vulnerable, and called for confirmation that teaching assistants are classified as key workers.
Commenting, Layla said:
“In the last 48 hours, I have received many worried emails from constituents and school staff across the country, asking questions following the Government’s announcements that schools would close their doors.
“The guidance from the Government has answered some of those questions, but a lot is still unclear. We need clarity as a matter of urgency - many schools, nurseries and colleges feel like they’re making it up as they go along.
“I hope my questions and the answers from the Government will serve to improve the online guidance they have published.
“Parents, teachers, support staff and the whole community are doing incredible work in extremely challenging circumstances. I’d like to thank them from the bottom of my heart, and reassure them that I’m here to help.”
Layla’s letter to the Secretary of State is below.
Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP
Secretary of State for Education
Department for Education
Sanctuary Buildings, 20 Great Smith St
London, SW1P 3BT
21 March 2020
Following my letter to you yesterday in response to your statement to the House on Wednesday, in which I raised a number of immediate questions and concerns, I am writing to you to seek clarification on a number of points. Many of my constituents — teachers, parents, childminders, childcare providers — and others have written to me, and it is clear that there is a lot of confusion surrounding the Government’s announcements.
Please carefully read the questions below, a summary of the key points that have been raised to me in the past 48 hours, and respond as fully as you can at your earliest possible convenience.
• Schools require urgent clarity on what requirements they will need to fulfil if they are staying open. Will they need a designated safeguarding lead and designated first aiders on site? How will key workers be verified?
• Staff in schools also have concerns. How will the Government ensure that teaching staff in vulnerable categories are not placed under pressure to attend work? What reassurances can be provided to supply staff and staff on insecure or casual contracts? Can you confirm that teaching assistants are classified as key workers?
• Childcare providers are also contacting me with important questions. What support is available for childcare workers who will not be paid whilst providers are operating at reduced capacity? What financial support will the Government give to childcare providers registered as charities?
• Many parents will now need to stay at home to care for their children. What financial support will they receive?
• Can you please confirm that children living in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs are being classed as vulnerable?
• Many students are studying vocational qualifications, or are currently undertaking apprenticeships. What arrangements is the Government putting in place to support them?
• What discussions is the Government having with universities regarding how degree marks will be decided?
• We must not forget about children’s and youth services. What financial and other support is the Government offering them?
Thank you in advance for considering these questions and answering them as fully as possible. I will continue to communicate any key questions and issues to you, and I hope that these will be used to update the online guidance that has now been published.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest possible convenience.
Layla Moran MP
Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon