Posted: 24.08.20 at 18:18 by By Andrew Bridgen
It has now been over five months since the full lockdown of the Country was announced by the Prime Minister in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the hardest decisions related to this was the decision to close schools.
We know the effect that missing just one week of schooling can have on a child’s education, so the prospect of several weeks was of obviously of huge concern.
The fact that this has become months for some children means it is now essential to their life chances that they get back to school as the new term starts.
We should not underestimate the job that the teachers will have on their hands when the children do return after such a long absence.
This will be particularly pronounced amongst the more deprived areas of the district.
In my visits to schools over the years, many schools have cited the school holidays as the period when children regress, particularly those in receipt of free school meals and the pupil premium.
Given that we are looking that it has been over 20 weeks that some children have been out of school, you can see the size of the challenge the teachers and pupils now face.
The Prime Minister is absolutely correct to highlight the moral case to ensure that parents send their children back to school when he said: “It’s vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends.
“Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school”
Whilst I realise that there will be those parents and school staff who have concerns, we must take heed of the Chief Medical Officer who has stated: "The first thing to say is that the evidence that not going to school damages children in the long run is overwhelming, and that includes their long-term chances.
“The chances of many children being damaged by not going to school are incredibly clear, and therefore the balance of risk is very strongly in favour of children going to school because many more are likely to be harmed by not going than harmed by going, even during this pandemic."
The Government has now safely lifted several aspects of the lockdown without significant spikes of cases occurring.
Pubs and restaurants have been open for several weeks now as well as shops, hairdressers, etc. and we have recently we have seen soft play centres reopen.
This has been essential in getting the economy moving as will the reopening of schools.
It has been a stressful time for many parents managing full-time care of children whilst simultaneously managing their work life.
Like furlough payments, we cannot do this indefinitely and now it is the right time to get back to the new normal.
The discipline shown by the residents of North West Leicestershire in following Government guidelines on social distancing and wearing masks where appropriate has resulted in us having the lowest new infection rates in the County.
I thank you all for your efforts and urge you to continue to take the recommended precautions, as we know from the experience of the City of Leicester, and its local lockdown, the consequences of not doing so.
This pandemic has been a human tragedy for many and has produced an economic shock, the like of which we have not seen since the Second World War.
One thing it has shown however is the ability for people to work from home and meet virtually. It may well be that we see increases in productivity in some sectors from the elimination of the commute to work.
The way many people work has been changing, and this pandemic has accelerated this. I have made this point in the past when countering the argument against the need for HS2.
Do we really need to be spending billions of pounds scything up the countryside when so many companies are questioning the need for big expensive offices in the City.
I still believe there are better ways of spending the HS2 budget on local connections rather than on this grandiose scheme.
One of those local schemes is the revival of the Ivanhoe Line which is currently being considered for funding under the ‘restoring your railway’ fund.
There can be no doubt we have a very strong case for this funding.
Most of the line is in place and still carries freight, all the areas along the line are experiencing business and housing growth as it runs through the National Forest.
This is the best chance in a generation to get trains running through the District and I, and my Parliamentary neighbours, will be doing all we can to support the excellent work being carried out by the Campaign to ReOpen the Ivanhoe Line group.