The MP for Preston, Sir Mark Hendrick has called on the government to "urgently" consider the impact of Covid-19 on primary schools, and the need to introduce more safety measures, as Omicron cases continue to rise nationally.
With both primary and secondary schools returning this week, Sir Mark's letter to the Education Secretary comes following the Government's introduction of on-site testing and in-class face masks at secondary schools only.
In his letter to Nadhim Zahawi, Sir Mark wrote: "During your recent announcements on the Omricon variant of Covid-19 and the measures that you have put in place to protect secondary schools and pupils, I was dismayed to find that there has been no mention of protection for primary school pupils or staff.
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"As you are aware, children under 12 are currently unable to obtain the vaccine and many schools are not naturally well ventilated and do not have air ventilation systems in place to
ensure that air is circulated well enough to allow individuals to remain together in small classroom settings. You announced recently that the Government would make 7000 air purifiers suitable for badly ventilated classrooms. There are over 20,000 schools in England. That's one classroom air purifier per three schools.
"Despite this, primary schools seem to have been completely ignored by the Government, potentially putting at risk pupils, their families and staff members. I would like to urge you to make provision for primary schools throughout the UK to ensure greater safety from Covid-19 of all those who attend our learning establishments."
Following the publication of Sir Mark's letter, the headteacher of one Preston primary school, Kelly Hannah from The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School in Ribbleton, welcomes the MP's call for further support.
Kelly told the Post: "We had a period of significant disruption in the run up to Christmas with many staff and pupils testing positive for Covid which meant that the nursery was closed for almost 2 weeks. Another issue causing disruption for children in primary schools is when parents/carers test positive and are unable to transport the children to school.
"Staff absences - both teaching and non-teaching - are proving difficult to cover due to widespread absence in the supply sector.
"We would certainly welcome any additional support that the government would be able to provide in terms of air filters/ventilation. At the moment, the only option if the air quality is poor is to open windows and doors which is not ideal in low temperatures."
Azra Butt, the headteacher of Eldon Primary School agrees that primary schools are continuing to be heavily disrupted by the spread of Coronavirus, even if this is not being recognised by Government guidelines.
Azra explained: "The start of the term has been very uncertain and therefore tricky on many accounts. We have two teachers and several children who did not return after the break due to testing positive. With ever evolving regulations, this also is difficult to keep up with.
"Going forward, the situation looks very likely to become hugely challenging and I imagine quite quickly, due to staff shortages. The issue is also that there is a huge shortage of supply staff too. Our children thrive when routines and systems are consistent and with the teachers that they know. The change that we are having to put into place, to ensure classes are covered, will undoubtedly have in impact on learning as children then may become unsettled.
"All in all, it's a very challenging situation and looks likely to get more difficult to manage before it will get better."