This week I want to add my voice to the importance of getting children back into schools safely when the autumn term begins in September.
It is widely recognised that prolonged absence from school will have a negative impact on the life chances of children. A study earlier this year found that while children were being educated at home, those from poorer backgrounds were studying 30% fewer hours per day than those from better off families.
The longer this carries on, the larger the attainment gap likely between those pupils and their peers, not to mention the impact on children’s social development and their mental and physical health.
Clearly back in March, when we knew less about the virus and it was more prevalent in society, the government had no option but to close schools. Families have done brilliantly in helping children to learn at home supported by their teachers. I have been impressed by the hard work and innovation shown from many local schools to provide as full an educational experience as they can away from the classroom.
I have made sure every local school knows how to apply for the additional funds available to cover unexpected costs COVID19 has incurred, since I am aware this has brought cost pressures. Further funding is needed going forward, to give schools the ability to manage a COVID safety compliant reopening.
So I am very pleased the government has announced an additional £48m for South Shropshire schools for the coming year through the National Funding Formula. This means a financial uplift of at least 2% for every primary and secondary school in South Shropshire, with some receiving up to 13% increase in per pupil funding.
In addition, through the government's decision to invest in our public infrastructure, Bridgnorth Endowed, Lacon Childe, Oldbury Wells, Cleobury Mortimer Primary and Castlefields schools have all been allocated capital funding to improve the condition of their buildings.
On the first day last month I was able to have a meeting outdoors I visited Ludlow School to see the recently completed brand new class-room block, which will be in full operation from September.
The latest research – one of the largest studies on coronavirus in schools in the world – makes it clear there is little evidence that the virus is transmitted at school. So I firmly support schools in South Shropshire returning for all pupils, with suitable protection measures for each school put in place, in September.