The Stroud MP's weekly column.

I have been speaking to teachers and parents over the last few days about children returning to schools in a safe phased way in the coming months.

Schools have been open throughout the ‘lockdown’ period for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. Stroud schools have been superb at adapting in difficult circumstances.

Teachers have been effectively running three schools all at once: face-to-face classes, online education and additional support for disadvantaged and vulnerable children. It is an incredible feat and I thank them. We know that fewer than 30% of children in the UK have engaged properly with online education despite of all this work. Some families only have one laptop between them and many children are trying to do homework on their smartphones.

Many parents also desperately need schools to be open so they can earn a living and they have a new understanding of what a skilled job teaching is. There are some tired households in the five valleys, with children not wanting to learn at home or seriously missing social interaction.

It’s therefore a little disappointing to hear some teachers’ unions telling members not to even engage with planning to open schools. The negative impact of vulnerable children being out of school, the educational gaps between those who are being home schooled and those who are not, together with the scientific guidance about safety is what matters here. I do understand the concerns and it must be right that parents and teachers feel confident schools can open safely using social distancing. I believe the positives outweigh the risks I have been speaking to the Department for Education to address local concerns and I am advocating flexibility for our headteachers to plan for their own schools.