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Fenland Citizen letters – May 27, 2020

An open letter to our MP about reopening schools

I write to you as a teacher, governor and concerned member of the public from your constituency about the wider opening of schools.

Everyone I know, and work with, wants schools to be open for all children and young people as soon as possible.

But I am concerned that the Government’s plan for wider opening of schools is not safe for pupils, parents, school staff and our community.

In proposing the phased return of primary pupils from June 1 onwards, the Government has put forward a reckless timetable.

It is not fair on schools and it is not feasible. It is perplexing and infuriating that while the Education Secretary seemed to be meeting with the National Education Union (NEU) and moving towards their position, the announcement made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the reopening of schools for three whole year groups, including the youngest children least able to social distance, was made without reference to any of these negotiations.

Did the Prime Minister even speak to his own minister before deciding this?

I believe the wider opening of schools should happen only when it is safe. I am worried that the Government is trying to shift the responsibility for safety in schools and community health, during a health pandemic, onto individual headteachers without a safe, national framework.

The Government is showing a lack of understanding about the dangers of the spread of coronavirus within schools, and outwards from schools to parents, siblings, relatives and to the wider community.

We do not know enough about whether children can transmit the disease to adults. It seems that the rush is to allow parents to return to work without considerations for anybody’s health.

Giving evidence to the Science and Technology Committee, the Department for Education’s chief scientific adviser admitted that the Government’s plan could risk spreading coronavirus since there is a “low degree of confidence” that children transmit the virus less than adults.

I agree with the NEU that there should be disclosure in full of the advice relating to the reopening of schools, whether it is from SAGE as a whole, the schools’ sub-division, some other combination of its members or from Public Health England (as suggested by the DfE’s chief scientific adviser in his evidence), with any underlying scientific evidence, data or modelling on which that advice is based.

It does not make sense to be planning towards a return on a certain date. It would be far better to be working towards getting safe conditions in place that would permit a safe, ‘wider opening’.

In other words, planning for a condition to be met, not a fixed date. This is what other countries including Scotland and Wales are doing.

I am also concerned that, it appears, pupils and school staff will not be protected by social distancing rules.

I would be grateful if you could raise these concerns with the Secretary of State for Education. As my Member of Parliament, I would also be interested to hear your thoughts in response to the concerns I have raised.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Martin Field

via email

READERS' PHOTOS: Jeff Dix took this lovely shot of a Peacock butterfly. (34915574)
READERS' PHOTOS: Jeff Dix took this lovely shot of a Peacock butterfly. (34915574)

Sam and her team have been brilliant

We all complain and have a good moan about our local councillors at some time or another. But over the last weeks and months during this covid virus, I think that Sam Hoy and the rest of her team deserve a lot of praise.

They have set up the shopping collection scheme for those of us in the Wisbech area who have been diagnosed as high risk.

Since the lockdown for the last few weeks it has just meant a quick call to the team and they have come for our shopping list and delivered it all back to us within an hour or so.

So I personally would like to say a massive thank you from my wife and I.

George J Treadway


It’s almost the final countdown

Here we go, it’s almost the final countdown in the life-draining, eternity-lasting, mind-twisting saga that is Brexit.

It’s been like having a mouthful of Remainery flavoured, ever-lasting gobstoppers, and every time you manage to finish one, up would pop Gina Miller, or Tony Blair, Nicola Sturgeon, Jo Swinson, Oliver Letwin, John Bercow, or John Major et al, to force more of the near-inedible sweets into our mouths, trying to drown out our cries for democracy to be heeded, the will of the majority listened to and the referendum result mandate to be delivered to the 17.4million people that voted for it.

So, here we are, just 34 days away from knowing whether we will taste the glory of a Brexit victory on December 31, or about to have the good name of democracy dragged through the mire, once again.

The last day for an extension to the transition period to be requested by Boris Johnson is on June 30.

By 12am on July 1, if no extension has been requested, then it is all hands on deck to prepare for an EU capitulation, or better still, a no-deal exit from the manacles that have bound our once great nation to an iron loop on the floor, in the very deepest bowels of the euro-bloc, just so the puppet masters can syphon every last penny, every last drop of life, of the will to live, and the moment of an independent United Kingdom from the history books.

That’s 34 days from realising that Britain CAN be Great again, WILL be Great again, and hold the head of Britannia high above the waves again.

A certain Manchester United boss called Sir Alex Ferguson coined the phrase ‘squeaky-bum time’. Thank you Sir Alex, I couldn’t have put it any better.

One final thought, when you celebrate Brexit on NYE 2020, just raise your glasses in thanks to the likes of Gina Miller, Oliver Letwin and company, because if not for the court cases, the wrangling, and the rebellions, we would have left the EU with Theresa May’s Brexit in Name Only Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and we would have been stitched to their rules, possibly until the end of days.

So thank you Remainiacs, you HAVE given the Brexiteer’s the best of all worlds and Great Britain, the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth owes you greatly for our forthcoming freedom.

Ashley Smith


Tiny amount of people calling shots

The emergency here has demanded that the state extend its tentacles almost everywhere – managing the health crisis, propping up multiple industries, supporting the wages of nearly half of the working population and issuing instructions to us all on the way to live our lives.

Despite the longer and longer list of tasks the Government is carrying out, the number of people calling the shots is tiny.

“There are a lot of people just not involved in making decisions.” Another admitted some feel “excluded” with the Prime Minister, and only a handful of others, calling the shots.

A senior official even suggested “more than half the Cabinet have no clue what’s going on”.

In practice, it’s common for choices to be dominated by a much smaller clutch of people and in an emergency you just can’t make decisions fast by committee.

Ministers not in the inner loop have to defend decisions they are not playing a full part in making.

The real physical distance does not help either – some stuck in their spare rooms staring at screens, rather than arguing the toss in the cabinet room.

And, however the decisions are actually being made, the Government is still scrambling, two months in, to fix problems that were there from the start: grappling with care homes, providing enough testing, and enough protective gear. The UK has this in common with other governments around the world. “It’s a mess,” says one minister. The system simply was not ready to deal with what we have got. But this crisis has pushed governments everywhere to their limits. There’s now an obvious urge in Number 10 to change in order to cope, bringing in more outside experts, with government documents this week arguing for a “rapid re-engineering of government’s structures”.

Others caution against making change right in the middle of a crisis, but it seems clear the current system designed for peacetime is being stretched like never before. Despite the internal struggles, and a sense sometimes that the Government is just overwhelmed by the challenge, levels of public support have been historically high.

As the second phase of the crisis begins, that may well start to change as multiple ministers admit the practical challenge of a long journey to a new normal, with the political challenge of growing hardship leading, inevitably, to a much more politically turbulent time.

Problems with message matter, but they are often a sign of deeper issues inside. This is still a government with a majority of 80 that has moved rapidly to answer the calls of a crisis. But it is also a government under great strain, trying to keep up with a situation that its structures were never designed to handle, a political situation that is likely to only become more testing for them. Like losing the next election.

John White


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