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We took your feedback to the Parliamentary Education Select Committee

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A message from NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman to members

Last night we asked whether you thought the government's proposals would be feasible in your school.

70% of you told us it would not be feasible for reception and years one and six to come back to school from 1 June.

97% said it would not be feasible for all year groups to be back in primary school for a month before the end of the school year.

A number of you also quite rightly raised the issue of nursery classes, which were added by the government after the prime minister's initial announcement.

This morning, I gave evidence to the Parliamentary Education Select Committee. Among other things, I was able to use your feedback to tell MPs that a large proportion of our members do not believe it will be possible to expand pupil numbers in the way the government has currently described based on these timescales.

I explained the issues to the secretary of state too. And I asked again for a clearer explanation of the scientific and medical advice the government is relying on to make these decisions.

If there is to be an increase in the number of pupils attending school, we need a careful, measured and methodical plan that's built around the highest safety standards so that schools can do everything in their power to reduce the risks posed to all members of their community.

The information from the government, as currently set out, does not provide us with that plan.

As many of you have pointed out, the guidance is notably silent on what the science says when it comes to the safety of adults in schools. Of course, we absolutely need to know about the impact and risk to children, but we also need to know about the risk to staff, parents and the wider community too. We have already called on the government to address this as a matter of urgency; otherwise, we fear that teachers and parents simply won't feel safe to return. I know from some of your emails that is exactly what many teachers are telling you, and this is already posing challenges for many of you.

A number of you have asked if we are in contact with other teaching unions on this issue, and I can confirm that we are. We believe that, wherever possible, we should be working together at this most difficult time.

Over the next few days, we will continue to engage with the government, other unions and the wider public.

We will also be issuing advice to members. We know many of you are already thinking about what a safe, phased return might look like in your schools. Inevitably, our guidance will not answer all your questions because some of these will be questions that only the government can answer, but we hope to provide you with useful and practical information where we can.

I should also make it very clear that any advice we publish is not an endorsement of the government's current approach. The aim of our advice, as always, will be to assist you in making the best decisions for your school.

In the meantime, we will continue to challenge unreasonable expectations on schools and call on the government to provide a clearer picture of the scientific evidence, particularly as it relates to adults in schools. If we are unable to achieve positive improvements, we shall continue to faithfully represent the position of school leaders in all appropriate ways.

I remain astonished by your professionalism and dedication throughout this crisis. No one should ever take that for granted. It is not unreasonable for you to expect to be assured of your safety at work.


First published 12 May 2020