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Thursday, 10 December 2020 19:13

Maidstone Grammar Delays Opening Next Term by Two Days to Manage Unpredictable Brexit Issues

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Update: 18th December. One can only wonder if the government threatened MGS for planning this before it proposed all secondary schools should be closed for the first week of term and made it irrelevant!

Maidstone Grammar School leaders are delaying opening next term by two days and will provide remote learning for their pupils instead. This is because they can see potential but unpredictable problems arising from Brexit transport issues, exacerbated by Maidstone’s notorious traffic congestion, to the extent that staff and pupils may struggle to get to school in good time. This will enable the school to plan effectively for an ordered return, rather than having to manage a potentially chaotic situation.

MGS3

However, Kent County Council has strongly criticised the decision on the grounds it is unnecessary for ‘the problems are less likely to impact on Maidstone than some other areas, and staff and pupils can arrange for alternative transport arrangements, such as walking, cycling, train, bus, and car share’. Presumably, KCC is confident that all its officers who work at the Maidstone headquarters will also be able to attend punctually and without difficulty through such alternative arrangements, which would indeed undermine the school’s case.  However, today’s coronavirus news, along with the Christmas relaxation, means that a  surge in the pandemic is surely likely in January, strengthening the case for the decision.

 To my mind, this is a logical precautionary arrangement allowing the school to plan confidently for what could otherwise be a chaotic start to the term. Other schools may well come to different conclusions based on their own situations, but such decisions should surely be left to headteachers who take ultimate responsibility both for the safety and the quality of education of the children in their care, rather than officials away from the front line.

Last month I wrote an article entitled: 'Needless' School Closures and Coronavirus, about an inflammatory letter sent to schools by Matt Dunckley, Corporate Director, Education and Young People's Services for Kent County Council,  which put pressure on schools to resist closure.  This decision by MGS has attracted more controversy than those directly impacted by coronavirus, as shown by the extensive national media coverage. However, I cannot see it is a big deal to attract such exposure and criticism. 

 KCC in urging the school to abandon the plan writes: ‘We issued guidance to all Kent schools, advising them to plan ahead in case of any disruption that could occur during the Brexit transition period. Our advice covered a range of practical management issues. We specifically advised them (MGS) to check which staff might be affected, before they are affected, and consider alternative transport arrangements, such as walking, cycling, train, bus, and car share. The advice stated that the impact of the end of the transition period would be more likely on the M20 and M2/A2 corridors, and in and around the port areas’. I am glad to see that KCC, through its planning, has such confidence that the situation can be managed effectively from day one by such strategies, with a limited effect spilling over into Maidstone, but even as I write the continued unpredictability of the Brexit negotiation outcome belies that confidence.

I suspect that the Authority is worried that other schools will go down the same route, and indeed each school should consider its responsibilities for its own pupils first. I would be surprised if no others follow the same route.

Read 237 times Last modified on Friday, 18 December 2020 11:13

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