It’s “impossible to plan in detail” for the return to school in September

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Cllr James Valentine
Cllr James Valentine, Portfolio Holder for Education at Bedford Borough Council.

There is a real prospect that the new school year will look very much like the one just about to end, with masks and Covid-19 precautions still in place, a meeting heard.

Leading Bedford councillors say that with so-called freedom day looming on Monday (July 19) is it “difficult to predict” what is going to happen with the Covid-19 infection and “impossible to plan in detail.”

“One school is making plans to stagger entry into the school on the basis that they will have to apply restrictions as we are at the moment,” said Cllr James Valentine (Lab, Kempston West), who is Bedford Borough Council’s education portfolio holder.

“I know it’s unfortunate but we have got to do everything we can to control the virus, have as few children as possible infected and we have been good at doing that in Bedford borough because of our superb public health team.”

Speaking at Wednesday’s (July 14) meeting of the full council, Cllr Valentine added: “As far as September is concerned it is really difficult to predict what’s going to happen and it is impossible to plan in detail.

“Schools will be cautious and we are encouraging that because we must keep this infection under control.”

Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur), the council’s health and well-being portfolio holder revealed that the council is working with schools to look at improved ventilation.

“There will be more details on what that’s going to look like coming out in the coming days,” she said.

“Ventilation experts are going in to have a look at some of the schools we know have got real problems.”

Conservative group leader, Cllr Graeme Coombes (Wilshamstead) said trying to predict the future is a “bit of a fool’s errand”.

Councillors also appealed to the public to volunteer to continue wearing face coverings and follow public health advice after the ending of legal restrictions on Monday.

Cllr Christine McHugh (Lib Dem, Goldington) said: “If we care about getting children back into school in September successfully then we should not look at this as a big bang independence day but we should be cautious where we can be.”

And Cllr Jackson added: “The Government is pressing ahead with it and therefore we must do all that we can and take that responsibility seriously and protect our communities because we don’t want to find ourselves back in the situation where we are an outlier with rising cases and avoidable deaths.”

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter

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