York Labour councillors are calling for a single York approach to schools re-opening or temporarily moving to online learning. The call comes as York’s ‘R’ rate (rate of infection) almost doubled in the seven days to 29th December, confirming it as the area with the biggest increase in the whole of Yorkshire and the Humber, a rise attributed to increased household mixing and people visiting York from other areas.
Labour Group Leader, Councillor Danny Myers, accused the Lib-Dem/Green coalition of failing to provide the leadership that York deserves.
“As we saw last August prior to schools re-opening, the Liberal Democrat led council is hiding from responsibility once again, standing back and waiting to see what individual schools decide to do. This is creating chaos. It is not helpful to families and not helpful to teaching staff, nor does it contribute anything useful to proactively reduce the local infection rate.
“With infection rates increasing rapidly the Council must take a lead, as political leaders have done elsewhere in the country, by stepping in with a city-wide approach. I am also calling for no fines to be issued at this time for parents not sending their children to school.
“This is an extremely difficult time for many parents and we need to see efforts redoubled to ensure parents and carers are aware of the financial support that could be made available to them. We know that many families are already struggling and are now missing work to deal with childcare.
“Further, there is an urgent need for the Council to work with employers in York to prevent employees being unfairly treated due to them having children that are not in school, either because of the health risks or because the school is now closed. I have asked for guidance to be issued to employers on this ASAP.
“Ultimately, without council guidance, we expect to see a mixed approach to schools reopening in the city, with families being forced to make individual decisions. I am therefore calling for a city-wide plan to be implemented as a matter of urgency to ensure all children and their families are supported at this time financially, around employment security, and to ensure a comprehensive home learning and support structure is in place for all pupils not in school from the start of term”.
Councillor Anna Perrett, the deputy leader of the Labour Group, added:
“The council’s Executive Member for Education is citing Greenwich council as an example of why the council cannot advise schools on closures, but the Government has been forced into an embarrassing climb-down there, showing how important local leadership is in protecting residents and prioritising public health.
“Whilst the council cannot legally instruct them to close, it can advise schools on a single York approach that is based on what the science is telling us about an infection rate that is getting out of hand. We need to ensure the rate is brought under control, and schools will play a key role in achieving that.
“If we do see schools taking individual approaches across the city to re-opening, then we expect at the least for the Lib Dem-Green run council to take an appropriate approach to school absence and fining. Where people have serious concerns due to pre-existing health conditions, it’s perfectly understandable that some won’t want to send their children to school and increase their own risk of contracting coronavirus.
“The council must make a statement on this issue urgently so parents and carers understand whether the council is going to take a sympathetic and proportionate approach or not”.