On Wednesday in the House of Commons a statement was made by Nadhim Zahawi who is now the Secretary of State for Education. The statement referred to several aspects but it included two volunteers who are assisting in education settings, one of whom is Caroline Ansell the Eastbourne MP. I met Caroline several years ago before she became an MP and I was aware of her interest in educational issues. It seems vital for this to be promoted and indeed perhaps other groups of people could assist Schools, particularly if the call could become a bit more widely understood. The whole of the statement from Nadhim is available here and along with his statement there is also a response from a number of MPs including Bridget Phillipson who is the Labour shadow secretary for Education. I have focused on the aspect about the volunteering but there are other themes such as equipment that is being used to try to keep classrooms less challenging for COVID and indeed there are a number of challenges of that element which will be worth exploring.
Nadhim Zahawi: Although we are beginning the transition from pandemic to endemic, covid has undoubtedly been the greatest threat to our way of life since the second world war, but just as we did then, we are going to get on with the job. I know that our teaching communities have been adversely affected by the omicron variant, which is why I issued our recent call to arms, urging any teachers who have stepped away from the profession or who have retired to return, even if it is for just a few hours a week, so that we can keep children learning. I am glad to say that we have already seen the first volunteers heading back to our classrooms, including at least two of our own, my hon. Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Caroline Ansell) and for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), as well as staff from my Department who have answered that call. They do this House great credit, and I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say that we thank them and wish them well. I will have a better idea at the end of this week of the exact number of former teachers who have come forward to lend their support.
A few minutes later the Labour shadow secretary mentioned this aspect
Bridget Phillipson: Can he explain why he is unable to tell the House today how many retired teachers and others have come forward to help in classrooms following his last-minute call?
And so here is the element of his response
Nadhim Zahawi: On retired teachers, again operationally, it is a bit difficult to say as we have had only one day of school. I need to wait until the end of the week at least before I can talk to the agencies and hear exactly how many teachers and temporary staff have been needed. I will happily share that information with the House, but, alas, the hon. Lady has clearly not had much experience of operationalising.
Clearly it is very good if the Schools in our communities need additional provision that the Government will provide them with some resources to enable people to come in and assist them.