Birmingham Conservatives attack council’s “mixed message” for schools

Group calls for help following concerns about closure impact on pupils.

Birmingham Conservatives have called on the Labour-run council to stop the mixed messages and get fully behind schools reopening for the sake of the children threatened with being left behind by closures. They are also calling on government for support in holding summer catch up lessons for those children falling behind and for the local authority to get on the front foot in supporting those plans.

Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington) the Leader of the Conservative Group on Birmingham City Council said: “Missing out on education is going to have a life long impact on children, particularly the most deprived, whilst school closures also leave a worrying gap in vital safeguarding checks for children at risk of harm. Reopening schools as soon as possible, to as many children as possible, should be an absolute priority for any council that wants to protect its children and ensure they are able to thrive and succeed. Sadly in Birmingham the council has been less than eager to show the determination needed to push for this to happen and even seemingly urging against it at times.”

The City Council’s Labour Chair of the Education Scrutiny Committee recently told an online public meeting that she would not be sending her children back and did not believe others should. This was a meeting she promoted as being about ‘how do we make sure our schools don’t go back until it’s safe.’ Meanwhile the council used its ‘Schools Noticeboard’ to share guidance from the so called ‘Independent SAGE’ which was set up to challenge government advice and which advised against school opening. The status of this group or it’s guidance was not made clear on the message board.

Cllr Ewan Mackey (Con, Sutton Roughley) Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group said: “We are told that only a quarter of children eligible to return to school in Birmingham have done so, which is hardly surprising given the council has spent weeks sending confusing messages to schools and parents. In areas where the local authority has given their full support to reopening, the take up is much higher, whereas in Birmingham we have the chair of scrutiny telling parents it isn’t safe, and the council sending guidance to school that contradicts the official government advice.

“The council needs to be working to get as many kids as possible back to school, as well as working with local schools on how to support children to catch up on the time they have missed.”

The Conservative group have written to government calling for a comprehensive summer catch -p programme focussed on the most deprived children, which would also continue to provide free school meals for those eligible. Cllr Maureen Cornish (Con, Sutton Four Oaks) Shadow Cabinet Member for Education said: “The government, councils, schools and trade unions need to work together to ensure no child is left behind. The six week summer holiday is an opportunity to do this in a way that will also help those at risk of food poverty. But with time running out to prepare we will require everyone to get behind such a plan as soon as possible. I would urge the council and the unions to put politics aside and work with government on a plan that puts our children and their education first.”