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Education unions’ joint statement on the safe reopening of schools

Unions with members in the education sector are today (Monday) publishing a joint statement on the safe reopening of schools. 

 Today’s statement is signed by GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON and Unite. 

Full text of today’s statement: 

The government’s chaotic handling of the opening of schools has caused confusion for teachers, school staff and parents alike. Bringing all pupils back into classrooms while the rate of infection is so high is exposing education sector workers to serious risk of ill-health and could fuel the pandemic. 

Unions have called for a pause in the reopening of schools for anyone other than vulnerable children and children of key workers, and a move to remote learning for all while Covid-secure working arrangements are reviewed. All school staff continuing to work in schools should be given priority access to Covid-19 vaccinations. 

Instead of casually asserting that schools are safe, the Prime Minister should sit down with unions to discuss a joint approach to ensuring safe working arrangements in all schools and prioritising enabling all pupils have the equipment and access they need to receive a high standard of remote learning until the safety of them and the staff in their school can be guaranteed. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government’s own advice from SAGE makes it clear that opening schools to all pupils now risks increasing the infection rate. That’s in no-one's interests. 

“Instead of creating chaos for parents and exposing workers to risks, the Prime Minister should be talking to trade unions about what steps are needed to make sure all schools are Covid-Secure.” 

 Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: "It’s very hard to tell how many school buildings will be open, but you can bet that where possible, headteachers will have done everything they can to provide the maximum provision that their circumstances allow. Some schools in tier four areas will be open for vulnerable pupils and key worker families and will be providing remote learning for others, yet in other areas also in tier four, all pupils will be admitted. That's a confusing picture for school leaders and families alike. NAHT began legal proceedings last week to force the government to reveal the scientific data it is withholding that underpin it's assertions that schools are safe. We remain unconvinced, and we await the government's reply, which is due at 4pm on Monday."

NAHT has issued a plan for the Spring term.

We believe that the government should take the following steps:

·       Move all schools to home learning for a brief and determined period for most children.

·       During this time, proper support to make the home learning experience as good as it can be should be provided. That includes technology and learning resources but also the flexibility for school leaders to respond to their circumstances. A centralised, prescriptive approach is too constrained.

·       The government should then establish a properly organised, resourced and funded mass testing regime for schools in place of the botched DIY system currently being imposed.

·       Work should be undertaken with school leaders and PHE to establish and agree new covid-related safety measures in schools during the temporary restriction.

·       Urgently review its approach to special schools, APs and Maintained Nursery Schools to protect all staff and pupils in those communities.  

·       Immediately prioritise vaccinations in education

·       Then agree an orderly return

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363

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