Ipswich MP Tom Hunt reluctantly feels ministers had to shut schools again

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has backed the government's decision to close schools until February. - Credit: House of Commons

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has backed the government's decision to close schools until at least the end of the February half-term - but warned that it could hit children from disadvantaged backgrounds particularly hard.

He said: "During this pandemic I have been vocal in stating that we should all do everything necessary to keep kids in school, they should be the last to close, first to open.

"As someone who sits on the Education Select Committee, I've found it depressing seeing every week how it's generally been children from disadvantaged backgrounds who lost out from the previous school closures the most.

"Between now and the February half term the Government needs to move heaven and earth to minimise the damage caused by these closures and to ensure that the damage that was done last time isn't compounded and I will be using my position on the Education Select Committee to make sure this is the case.

"I agree with the comments made over the weekend by the Chief Inspector for Ofsted and the Children's Commissioner, we cannot "furlough" our children's futures and steps should be taken that first-class online learning is providing to all.

"Having said this, I absolutely understand why many teachers within Ipswich have been so anxious about heading back to school at a time when Covid cases have been ballooning and I also understand why many parents have been anxious about their kids going back to school.

"Yes young people themselves are extremely unlikely to suffer greatly if they themselves catch Covid but they are likely to pass it on to either their teachers or to take it home with them and it's very likely that this could result in someone vulnerable to the virus catching it.

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"Ultimately it's been an extremely difficult decision and I completely understand why the Government have been so reluctant to take it but when there is a clear end goal in site, I understand why they've taken it."

But he warned that the six-week closure would will have negative consequences for many young people.

He added: "Schools themselves at this time do make a contribution to the virus spreading and if we do want to contain this spread ahead of the most vulnerable being vaccinated to safe lives then closing schools for a limited period of time does seem to be the only real option left to the Government."

Mr Hunt added that not a great deal would change in Ipswich and Suffolk in the national lockdown because the whole area had already been in Tier 4. And he warned that there were serious pressures on Ipswich Hospital - he had spoken to many staff who work there who had outlined the issues facing them.

He added: "It's very unfortunate that this new strain of the virus that is so highly transmissible has reared it's head just as we're beginning to see that bright light at the end of the tunnel get so much brighter as a result of progress in relation to the new vaccines.

"The reality is that if the Government hit their targets in relation to the vaccination process then by the end of February we could be in a radically different place and I for one hope they're successful.

"In the meantime, for all of us, the next six weeks or so will be very difficult but I would encourage everyone to continue following the rules and to work together to control the spread of this virus and to save lives."

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