IN this week’s column, Labour Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols expresses concerns over the Government’s response to the Omicron variant.

Happy New Year to all readers, and let us hope that 2022 is significantly better than what we have put up with for the past couple of years.

One group who particularly deserve a better 2022 are teachers, who have bust a gut to keep kids safe, supported and motivated as well as educated through the pandemic, but this has been taken for granted by Government.

Amongst other challenges, our schools form a key part of Warrington's food poverty strategy, ensuring children have been fed throughout the pandemic. We are fortunate that 98 per cent of Warrington school pupils attend a good or outstanding school, and it is one of the genuine pleasures of my job to be able to get around schools in Warrington North to meet the children and staff who are doing us proud. All children who want a school place in Warrington can get one, our school outcomes are strong, and this is a testament to our leaders and staff despite over a decade of chronic underfunding and neglect by the Government.

Unfortunately, we know that the challenges of disruption, remote learning and Covid pressures have had a damaging impact on children’s mental health and children’s learning, and their needs must be kept at the forefront of public policy. However, the Government’s response to the Omicron variant has shown that they have learnt nothing from the previous waves of Covid.

I am very worried that this Covid generation of children will see attainment and progress gaps widen rather than narrow and the entrenchment of disadvantages.

To address this the Government’s own schools catch-up tsar stated we need £15 billion invested for their future – less than half the money they squandered on Track & Trace – but he resigned when they provided less than a tenth of this. The Government has acknowledged that classrooms need to be properly ventilated but then is only choosing to fund a token 7,000 air purifiers when there are over 300,000 classrooms in England alone.

This ignores legitimate anxieties for both our children’s future and the safety of schools for staff, families and everyone else.

I am working hard with Warrington Council’s excellent cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Sarah Hall, to challenge ministers to properly understand the challenges in our schools and the steps needed to maintain our high standards, protect our community health, and stop a generation of children from slipping behind.

They all deserve the best chance in life. I want to thank everyone involved in education locally for their unstinting efforts to provide our children with all they need.