Coronavirus measures must do more good than harm
Throughout the pandemic I have called on the Government to ensure any restrictions introduced were balanced, proportionate and could be shown to do more good than harm. I have drawn attention to the evidence that suggests it is our children that have been asked to make the biggest sacrifices in response to COVID in spite of the fact they are the least likely to be get ill from it.
Yet, even now, and in spite of a vaccination programme that means almost 90% of over 12s have had their first dose, 81% their second dose and almost 36% their booster dose - it remains the case that it is our children that are being asked to make the bulk of the sacrifices.
Nativity plays cancelled, Christmas fairs cancelled, healthy children being isolated, and kept away from school - these are not proportionate measures.
I therefore took the opportunity to ask the Education Secretary what he can do to ensure that measures introduced in schools do not go beyond the guidance set out by the Government.
Topical questions to the Education Secretary - December 6
"Across the country, many local directors of public health are going far beyond the Department’s COVID guidance in their recommendations to schools, and the recent reintroduction of masks in communal spaces has turbo-charged this trend. Headteachers, who are not public health professionals, are being put in an impossible position. We are now seeing the cancellation of important events, the isolation of—and denial of education to— healthy children, forced mask wearing in lessons, punitive measures for forgetting to follow arbitrary rules, and children subjected to dangerously cold classrooms. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is an unethical and frankly inhumane way to treat our children? What can he do to ensure that schools do not go beyond the Government’s guidance?"
Nadhim Zahawi, Secretary of State for Education
"My hon. Friend is a passionate advocate for ensuring that any mitigation is proportionate. The most important thing is that we prioritise face-to-face education. Keeping children in school is my absolute priority, and I have said from the Dispatch Box today that I will do everything in my power to maintain that situation. Of course, directors of public health can advise temporary additional measures, but they should always be proportionate. As long as schools continue to be open, they should be holding nativities, and delivering every other one of their important functions."