Garth Harkness

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Saddleworth North Ward on Oldham Council Learn more

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Oldham Liberal Democrats send strong message on education to the Government

by Garth Harkness on 31 May, 2020

The Oldham Liberal Democrats and Councillor Howard Sykes (Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Opposition Leader on Oldham Council) have all signed a letter of support.  This is to aid vulnerable children and protect local education.  The National Education Union (NEU) Councillors Network has written a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson for local councillors to sign up to. 

Schools have been underfunded and struggling and the Covid-19 world has increased that mounting pressure.  The signed letter has several key demands noted here:

1.             Assurance that families will be eligible for free school meals (FSM) will be given food vouchers during summer holidays.

2.             Government to work with local authorities to protect vulnerable children.

3.             Supporting calls from the teaching profession that schools be reopened when it is safe to do so, for both staff and students.

4.             Local authorities be given a role in coordinating with schools, trade unions and the DfE on a safe end to school closures.

Councillor Sykes says:  “This letter of support, has been backed by thousands of councillors from all parties and non, hopefully it will send a strong message to central government.  I am pleased that all Liberal Democrat Councillors on Oldham Council have signed it.”

ENDS/…

Notes:

https://neu.org.uk/councillors-network

Letter to Gavin Williamson

Dear Gavin Williamson MP,

As local councillors, we are writing to raise concerns in relation to current school closures.

The first issue is our concern about the impact school closures are having on disadvantaged students and their families.

Students eligible for free school meals (FSM) have had mixed experiences when applying for the Government’s voucher scheme, with some unable to access vouchers to which they are entitled. We would like your assurances that all families with children eligible for FSM will receive vouchers for the full period of school closure, including school holidays. This may need to be in retrospect for families who have not yet been able to access their vouchers.

We would ask that the Department for Education (DfE) continues to work with local authorities who are at the forefront of supporting families facing unprecedented food insecurity in the current climate.

As you will know, holiday hunger is an issue for many families, and we would like your assurances that families eligible for FSM will be given food vouchers to sustain them during the summer holidays. We believe that this should become a permanent fixture within our school system, so no child need go hungry during the school holidays again.

We also have concerns about support for vulnerable children and the increased calls to domestic violence helplines nationally. We would ask that the Government continue to work with local authorities and schools to ensure vulnerable children do not ‘slip through the net’ and the necessary financial support is available to councils to support families fleeing domestic violence.

Finally, we are concerned by the current speculation on the end to school closures. We find current speculation unhelpful but would like to support the calls from the teaching profession that schools only be reopened when it is safe to do so, for both teachers and students.

We also ask that local authorities be given a role in coordinating with schools, trade unions and the DfE on a safe end to school closures.

We hope that the Government will continue to collaborate closely with local councils to support families and schools as we weather the current crisis and its aftermath. This will require an end to austerity and a new, long-term, funding settlement for local authorities and schools, to ensure they are best equipped going forward.

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