Message from NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman to members
This survey is now closed
A little earlier we sent you the below email asking you to fill out a quick poll relating to the feasibility of schools reopening. Unfortunately the number of people wishing to respond caused our website to crash. We have now moved the poll elsewhere and you can fill it in using this link or the one in the email below. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. If you did manage to complete the poll on the previous occasion, please fill it out again as your previous votes will not be counted.
We have been following the government’s announcements closely today, as I am sure you will have been too.
Yesterday, we heard the prime minister say that he expected it might be possible for pupils in reception and years one and six to return to school from 1 June 2020. Today, we have seen the government go further and suggest its ambition is that all primary pupils will return for a month before the end of term.
While none of us knows what course the virus will take over the coming weeks, we do not believe this is currently a feasible scenario. The availability of school staff, the sheer number of pupils and the sizes of school classrooms and corridors combined with the need for social distancing measures mean that the government’s calculations simply don’t add up.
Based on the current trajectory, it seems wildly optimistic, to the point of being deeply irresponsible to suggest that within the next seven weeks we will be in a position to relax social distancing measures enough to allow all primary children to return to school.
If the government is suggesting that it may be able to relax social distancing rules, it must provide a scientific basis for doing so; otherwise, it will simply fail the confidence test.
This latest development runs the risk of giving families and parents false hope that we are further along the road to recovery than we are.
Many of you have taken the time to write emails to us over the last 24 hours. While we will not be able to reply to each of you individually given the volume we have received, I do want to reassure you that they will all be read and considered carefully.
I do not underestimate the strength of our members’ feelings at present.
For us to continue to represent our members’ views accurately, we would like to ask you to respond to two simple and straightforward questions below:
- Do you think it will be feasible in your school to welcome back pupils in reception and years one and six in smaller sizes from 1 June?
- Do you think it will be feasible in your school to welcome back all pupils for a month before the end of the academic year?
At the time of writing, the Department for Education has just published the additional guidance that it promised yesterday. Like you, we are immensely frustrated that we have had to wait for this. We will now go through it in detail and consider what it means for our members.
Once we have had a chance to review the guidance, we will aim to start sharing further advice with members as soon as possible. As with our previous FAQs, it may be that there are several iterations of this and we build it as we go, but we are keen to ensure you have some advice to inform your decision-making sooner rather than later.
I have said all along that school leaders do not want to see classrooms empty for a day longer than they need to be. But there is not a school leader in the land who wants to risk admitting more pupils unless it is clear that it is safe.
First published 11 May 2020