Unions with members in the education sector are today (Friday 5 March) publishing a joint statement on the wider reopening of schools.
It is signed by AEP, GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, NSEAD, Prospect, UNISON and Unite.
Education unions joint statement on wider school reopening
The pandemic has impacted disproportionately on educational progress, with some disadvantaged groups falling behind at a much greater rate. A key priority must be to enable a return to a safe environment that gives all young people the opportunity to resume their education with confidence and to make up lost ground.
School staff will continue to place the highest priority on the education, safety and well-being of their pupils. They will also endeavour to help all students benefit fully from the education recovery programmes being put in place and to provide them with a safe and supportive classroom experience.
The safety of students and staff is paramount and government must put in place a robust framework of protection and support to this end. The raft of measures utilised following previous lockdowns has now been added to with a ramping up of testing and a greater use of face masks. However, many scientists (including SAGE) recommended a phased reopening and have warned that these measures on their own may not be enough to deal with the increased risk of airborne transmission as schools reopen fully.
It is therefore imperative that government gives schools the flexibility to take measures to strengthen the safety of students and staff in their local context. Schools will also face increased financial pressures to deliver on testing and other new demands, and government must ensure that this is addressed urgently.
We have consistently called on the government to follow the science when planning the wider reopening of schools following lockdowns and to give greater recognition to the recommendations of SAGE. The timing of the current reopening offers an opportunity to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the early data findings during the Easter holidays and to act on this decisively if there are any indications of a spike in infections in any part of the country. Government also needs to communicate these findings to all stakeholders in an open and transparent manner that instils widespread confidence in the decisions arrived at.
The vaccination programme is already reducing transmission levels and this will support efforts to make our schools as safe as possible for students and staff going forward alongside increased mitigation measures in schools. Government should continue to review the strategic direction of the vaccination programme in the context of school safety and ask the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to review the evidence on this on a regular basis.
The reopening of our schools should be aligned with a new commitment by the Department for Education to engage in a genuine discussion with education stakeholders going forward.
END OF STATEMENT
Notes to editors:
- NAHT school staff on-site attendance survey: The National Association of Head Teachers has today (Friday) published a survey showing that the vast majority of school staff have continued spending time working on site in schools during the pandemic. Full details can be found at the NAHT website or through their press office: www.naht.org.uk
- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living
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