Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The government elected to close schools to the majority of pupils in order to stem the spread of COVID in the community. An unplanned rush back to schools could easily drive community transmission back up, and force the school gates shut again, which nobody wants to see happen.
“Throughout the pandemic we have been calling on the government to deliver a sustainable plan for the return to school, drawn up with input from the profession.
“It is essential now that the government clearly sets out the conditions that would allow pupils to return. Risk needs to be acknowledged, quantified and mitigated. A national plan of this kind must include local flexibility to take account of varying levels of the virus in different parts of the country.
“There is evidence that staff absence due to COVID is higher than in other professions. Staff absence also has a huge impact on pupils, who can lose a teacher due to self-isolation even if they are not sick themselves. For this reason, vaccinations for school staff should be a priority.
“Governments across the UK must show more urgency with their plans to get pupils back into classrooms. But now is the moment for calm heads to decide on a sustainable return to school, not another chaotic and last-minute set of decisions that could easily result in a yo-yo return to lockdown.”
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