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19th Oct, 2021

Schools need urgent Covid support say headteachers

HEADTEACHERS say schools in Warwick and Leamington need urgent support for extra Covid-safety measures.

Concerns around potential Covid spikes in schools have sparked calls for measures including ventilation, clinical waste disposal and carbon dioxide monitors as well as extra support for pupils after the disruption caused by the pandemic.

One Leamington headteacher said: “I have huge concerns with how we are expected to meet the increasing needs of pupils within our existing budgets.

“If you look at what the additional money (from government) equates to, it is a joke.

“Health and wellbeing needs have increased among pupils, staff and parents.

“There are increased safeguarding concerns and the work that goes with this. Increased cleaning and maintenance costs, staff cover, provision of additional school meals, signing up to remote learning packages, additional resources, I could go on.

“Extra ventilation measures would be superb as keeping all windows and doors open just isn’t practical.”

Despite ministers pledging to fit carbon dioxide monitors in every school ahead of the beginning of term, headteachers are reporting they still have not been fitted.

A primary headteacher said: “Schools in Warwick and Leamington should have received a higher proportion of funding to cover costs incurred.

“There are raised costs due to increases in heating – but the greater cost however is the amount of supply cover that is needed to cover staff off isolating or with illness related to Covid.”

Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western has written to Warwickshire County Council pressing for more support for schools.

He warned schools were a primary vector of the virus and needed additional funding to make them safe and to avoid the sharp case rises seen in Scotland after pupils returned.

Mr Western said: “Teachers and governors alike are reporting how they fear a spike in Covid cases.

“The Department for Education has failed to get carbon dioxide monitors into every school so spaces that need better ventilation are identified – but this does nothing to improve ventilation in schools, with any necessary adaptations left for schools to pay for.

“Over a year ago, the German government injected capital funding into schools and other public buildings for additional ventilation measures. Our government has known ventilation in schools was a problem but has waited till the week before school starts to try and address it – and not very well.

“The central problem lies in budget cuts to our schools. How can they be expected to recover from a pandemic with less funding than they had during the austerity era?”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies recently revealed per pupil funding nationally is lower now than it was in 2009 – at the beginning of the so-called austerity era.

In Warwick and Leamington, central government data shows per pupil funding has been cut by eight per cent since 2013.

The Observer has asked WCC for a comment.

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