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Our response to the latest round of press speculation regarding schools reopening

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A message from NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman to members

Once again we have seen intense media speculation that schools will reopen to more pupils after May half term. Like you, we are immensely frustrated to read these reports in the press. We have reiterated to Government this week that any return must be led by evidence of when it is safe to do so, not convenient dates in the education calendar. Safe for children, safe for parents, safe for staff and safe for the wider community. This has to be the starting point.

The Prime Minister made it clear last week that the government is considering how it might begin to relax the lockdown, part of this is assessing if it is possible to expand the number of pupils attending school. The government has sought to reassure the nation that these decisions will be led by scientific and medical advice.  

We know that any return, including a phased return, needs to also consider the wide range of logistical and practical challenges that you shared with us through our survey earlier this week. We have discussed your feedback with the Department for Education. 

What is very clear is that the government still has a lot of work to do in terms of building the confidence of not just the profession, but of parents too.

There is little point talking about expanding the number of pupils attending school if parents do not feel confident sending their children in. We have seen a poll today suggesting that fewer than one in five of the public believe that the conditions for schools “reopening” have been met. 

These latest press reports would appear to suggest that the Prime Minister is looking at some form of return next month, but we should also remember that only a couple of days ago at the Education Select Committee, the Secretary of State for Education stated on the record that all schools returning on day one with a full complement of pupils would not be realistic. He also referred to a need to create “a safe environment for people to both work in and learn in as well.”

So, a date remains unclear. But we will continue to ensure that your voice is heard at the heart of government and in public debate as the government’s actual plans become clear. 

First published 03 May 2020