Give schools financial support to introduce Covid measures, says Leeds education chief

A senior member of Leeds City Council has said schools’ budgets are being stretched even further due to a lack of support from central Government to introduce Covid-secure safety measures.

By Richard Beecham
Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 2:38 pm

Coun Jonathan Pryor (Lab) made the comments as schools reopened this week as part of the Government’s roadmap, which has seen some pupils return to the classroom for the first time in months.

And while he claimed schools were coping well with the return to normal lessons, Coun Pryor, Leeds City Council’s education portfolio holder, said more help was needed to make schools meet the financial challenges of the extra Covid measures.

“There are things that the government should have done,” he said.

“There are still issues around funding for schools. A lot of schools are being told to fund Covid secure measures out of existing budgets.

“But when they have had their budgets cut year after year, it is a big ask of them. It is right that schools make themselves Covid-secure, but it can leave them short of cash for other things.”

The Government’s “lockdown roadmap” announced last month that schools around England would reopen on March 8, with both primary and secondary schools reopening on the same day. It said the reopening would be flexible, as many would want to gradually reintroduce lessons throughout the week to help set up testing.

After-school clubs were also allowed to return from March 8.

Children of key workers, such as NHS or supermarket staff, were still allowed to attend school during the lockdowns, meaning many children will be reunited in lessons with their friends for the first time this year.

Coun Pryor added: “I know that teachers were really keen to see the children again. They know the lasting impact that lockdown after lockdown is going to have on young people, and just want to help them get back on track with their education.

“The experience of the past year is going to be completely different from child to child. We spoke about how a child with no siblings is going to have a different experience to children with several siblings.

“Children who have been going into school because their parents are key workers – their experience is going to be different again from other children. To them it will be a huge change of getting to see their friends again.

“We are only on day two, and some schools have staggered over a couple of days, so I don’t think we are in a position at the moment to tell how well it’s gone.

“But so far, things are going smoothly.”