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NAHT comment on government plans for schools in January

Today (Wed 30 Dec) the government has announced a change in its plans for the start of the new term in January.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools, said:

“This is another last minute mess which could so easily have been avoided if the government had listened to school leaders before the holidays. Instead, back then, schools which wanted to shift to remote learning were threatened with legal action. Now we have a situation where the government is instructing schools to reduce the amount of teaching time available.

“If we’d had the freedom to take action before the holidays, we might have been in a position to have more schools open for more pupils. School leaders will be baffled, frustrated and justifiably angry tonight.

“All along, we have called for mass testing in schools. However the resources are not there yet. Neither is there any detail to support the rationale for closing some schools and not others and why primaries and special schools are being treated differently to secondaries.

“The delays announced by the secretary of state do at least show that the government now agrees with us that more time is needed to deliver mass testing. However, it is a mystery why this has taken so long. Once again the government has dallied and we’ve ended up with a worse picture than we would have done.

“It is not clear that the government knows how many staff and volunteers will be needed to deliver mass testing safely and effectively.

“What we have here is the education system supporting the public health response to covid, when what we need now is support from the health system to preserve the quality of education for young people. Teaching is the only profession that is being asked to do two things – preserve education for children AND play a part in the mass testing programme.

“If mass testing is a priority, then the government needs to put much more clout into it – and school staff need to be put on the priority list for testing. 

“Confusion continues in the government’s response to coronavirus. Today, the government appears to be following neither the science nor what education professionals have said is necessary to preserve the quality of education for young people. The government cannot expect to command public confidence with such a confusing and last-minute set of plans.”

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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