25 February 2021
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown welcomes reopening of schools

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown welcomes plans for the reopening of schools and calls for summer catch-up classes to be available in every school.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) [V]

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) for securing this very important debate.

I, too, welcome the full reopening of schools, colleges and further education settings on 8 March, and the fact that the Government have prioritised education throughout this pandemic. The academic impacts of not being in a classroom for nearly a year will, of course, vary from child to child. The Government must ensure that any pupil who wishes to have catch-up education has the opportunity to access it. After all the lost classroom time, I am particularly keen to see the summer catch-up classes available in every school, and I appeal to teachers fully to participate in this programme.

The £700 million education recovery package, and the £1 billion covid catch-up fund from the Government mean that money is there for all students to receive the education and grades that they deserve. Despite the intense disruption of the past year, no child should be denied future chances that they have worked so hard for. Measures to support children so that they receive equal opportunities are incredibly important. The £350 million national tutoring programme will help 2 million of the most disadvantaged children receive high-quality tuition. In addition, I welcome the £1.3 million provided by the Department for laptops and tablets for remote learning for some of our most disadvantaged children. This will revolutionise their learning.

Today’s announcement about the arrangements for examinations will provide much-needed clarity as to what will be expected of teachers and pupils in the coming months. The teacher-led approach to awarding and determining grades seems to be the fairest system under the circumstances. Once grades are submitted by teachers, the exam boards and Ofqual must ensure that there is consistency and fairness across the country.

There have been extremely mixed reports about the quality of teaching and the hours provided in face-to-face and even virtual teaching by universities in the last year. I hope that the Government can agree that the care and understanding provided to our young people needs to be extended to those struggling in higher education settings. All universities must be encouraged to provide a level of support and high-quality remote learning to their students, who have, after all, undertaken a significant financial burden in their student loans and accommodation throughout this pandemic.

I end by thanking all pupils, parents and teachers in my constituency for their incredible resilience over the last year. It has been a challenging and changeable time. With the road map announcement along with today’s statements, we will have a positive and productive end to this academic year. Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak today.