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Head blasts minister over schools re-opening claim

PUBLISHED: 18:17 05 August 2020 | UPDATED: 11:25 06 August 2020

Dave Lee-Allan has won widespread support on Twitter for his dismissal of a claim by minister Robert Jenrick MP over government help for schools. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Dave Lee-Allan has won widespread support on Twitter for his dismissal of a claim by minister Robert Jenrick MP over government help for schools. Picture: GREGG BROWN

A leading Suffolk headteacher has hit out at claims by the government it is doing all it can to help schools get ready for the return of pupils next month.

Dave Lee-Allan won widespread backing on Twitter after tweeting his disagreement with minister Robert Jenrick MP.

Mr Jenrick, the housing minister, said in interviews that getting schools open in September was a priority and the government was working closely with headteachers.

But Mr Lee-Allan, the headteacher of Stowmarket High School and chair of the Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads, tweeted “Can I just say, that when the government says it is working closely with head teachers over September opening, they are not”.

His tweet has since been retweeted more than 100 times and received nearly 300 likes.

Dave Lee-Allan is head of Stowmarket High School and chair of the Suffolk Association of Headteachers. Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDDave Lee-Allan is head of Stowmarket High School and chair of the Suffolk Association of Headteachers. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Mr Lee-Allan said: “My tweet was in response to Robert Jenrick saying that getting schools open in September was an absolute priority and that the government was working closely with headteachers in regard to this. Quite simply, I do not see this to be the case.

“It is headteachers and senior leadership teams that continue to work throughout the summer planning for the safe distribution of exam results and preparing for opening in September, based on the guidance issued at the end of the summer term.

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“There have been minor updates to this guidance, but nothing substantial. Experience has taught us that we should steel ourselves for last minute changes to guidance, with an expectation of near instant response times for the solutions to be found.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick MP. Picture: PAHousing secretary Robert Jenrick MP. Picture: PA

Mr Lee-Allan said throughout the pandemic school leaders and agencies such as the educational welfare officers, social workers and related care groups across Suffolk and the country had shown “extraordinary” resilience, determination and flexibility in supporting students in extremely challenging circumstances.

“In my role as chair of Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads, I have been fortunate to work closely with county officials, trust leaders and my primary counterparts in feeding the views of headteachers into the local authority networks, and it is on behalf of them that I champion their achievements,” he said.

“It should also be emphasised that if the government were making schools reopening such a priority then the costs of the extra cleaning, PPE, signage, increased staffing etc would be funded, rather than being expected to be sourced from existing budgets, which are already at breaking point in many cases.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We know that school leaders, teachers, and other school staff have gone to enormous lengths over recent months to support children at home and enable many to return to the classroom already and we are immensely grateful to them for this.

“Throughout the pandemic, schools have continued to receive their core funding, with this year marking the first year of a three-year £14.4 billion total cash boost.

“Schools have also been able to claim for specific exceptional costs such as additional cleaning required due to confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases - worth up to £75,000 for large secondary schools.”

“We continue to engage with school leaders, teaching unions and the wider sector ahead of September, as well as working closely with the scientific and medical experts.”


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