Sunderland Conservatives criticise local Labour on school reopenings.

Labour’s Graeme Miller has issued a press statement politicising Sunderland’s schools and advising parents to ignore government advice. This is a reckless move which is solely intended to gain support for Labour – not to benefit local children and parents.

• Miller claims the government’s advice is London specific. This is incorrect. The government advice considers regional variations in the infection rate.

• Miller tells parents they should not feel obliged to send their children back to school. But government has already announced that parents will not be penalised for making what they feel is the right decision for their child.

• Miller claims that children’s health is his top priority. What has the Council he leads done to tackle the large congregations of school-aged youths assembling in parks and at the seafront?

• Miller says teachers should not be in a school environment. Many teachers have continued to work in schools since the beginning of the lockdown, teaching the children of key workers.

• Miller claims the government has prioritised the economy over people’s health DESPITE the extension of the furlough scheme to October and the unprecedented state support for businesses and household incomes.

Our Labour-run Council has been poor in its public health messaging and its Leader has openly contradicted its health experts. Miller has yet again put politics before people.

Leader of the Conservative Council Group Cllr Robert Oliver said: 

“Sunderland Conservatives are backing the call for schools to re-open in the interests of pupils throughout the City.

“The British Medical Association has now dropped its opposition to schools re-opening saying the risk to children is ‘extremely small’.

“It’s not possible to eliminate all risk but this has to be balanced against the needs of children to be educated and the dangers of a longer lockdown.

“There is evidence that the most vulnerable pupils are losing out most due to difficulties in accessing online resources.

“It is also tough on children to ask them to be at home for such a long period and there are concerns about their wellbeing .

“Most councils are supporting schools to put plans in place for safe re-opening and we call on Sunderland to do the same.

“This is not a time for Labour councils to play games with the Conservative Government, it’s a time to see sense.”

Chairman of Sunderland Conservative Association Cllr Dr Antony Mullen added:

“The Conservatives support re-opening Sunderland’s schools in situations where measures are taken to enhance the safety of pupils and staff members. We do so on the basis that the British Medical Association has now dropped its opposition to schools re-opening, saying the risk to children is ‘extremely small’. In cases where parents are not comfortable with this, the government has removed penalties for parents who choose not to send their children to school.

“However, this is not a choice between staying at home and going to school. If schools do not re-open, then we need to know from Graeme Miller what he and the Council he leads will do to tackle the large groups of school-age youths that are congregating in the city’s parks, in the city centre, around shopping centres and at the beach on a daily basis. He has not once mentioned this city-wide problem in his increasingly frequent media appearances.

“It is incumbent upon Graeme Miller, as Council Leader, to use his position to help enforce social distancing measures and tell people, including young people, in our city to stay at home instead of finding new ways of politicising the pandemic.”