The UK’s largest teaching union has set out its plan to reopen schools and colleges in a safe and sustainable way.
The National Education Union (NEU) has today launched a new Education Recovery Plan it says will help lead the country out of lockdown and allow schools to reopen safely.
The new plan follows the union’s original recovery plan, which was sent to the government in June 2020, and outlines the challenges the education system must overcome if schoolchildren are to recover their confidence and make the progress they are capable of.
Announcing the new plan, the NEU said in a statement: “Our plan provides a route towards sustainable school and college opening and away from the Government’s stop/start approach, which has resulted in schools and colleges being closed to full pupil intakes twice.”
The Education Recovery Plan is split out into three parts:
- The first part focuses on the challenges faced to educate students safely, create safer environments and continue remote learning where necessary.
- The second part contains proposals to build a better education system as we emerge from the pandemic.
- The final section is a call to do more to fight child poverty and build a better world for all children following the pandemic.
The NEU said: “The Government must act urgently to create the conditions to sustain education throughout and beyond the pandemic. Declaring schools and colleges Covid-secure does not make them so.
“Ministers must act, now, to create Covid-secure conditions in all schools and colleges to keep those who work and learn within them safe and to stop education workplaces being, in the words of the Prime Minister, “vectors of transmission causing the virus to spread between households”.
“Government has not, up to this point, made schools and colleges Covid-secure. Ministers have consistently set their sights on returning all students to full-time education rather than planning to return them safely.”
Part one of the plan – “Safety in our schools and colleges” – features proposals for social distancing in schools and colleges, requirements for rotas to be used in schools to limit the number of people on-site at any one time, a call for an increase in face coverings to be used and for better ventilation in classrooms.
The union is also calling for education staff to be vaccinated as a priority – following similar calls from the Labout leader Sir Keir Starmer earlier this week. The union says: “Whilst vaccination will not stop the highest level of Covid-19 transmission into the community – from pupils to their families – it will provide greatly increased levels of safety for school and college staff, who have no choice other than to work in close proximity with primary and secondary pupils who are the most infected age groups.”
Read the NEU’s Education Recovery Plan in full here: https://neu.org.uk/coronavirus-neu-national-recovery-plan-education
Commenting on the launch of the Education Recovery Plan, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “We all want schools and colleges to be fully open again, but this needs to be properly planned with measures in place to address the problems already encountered and to ensure a safe and sustained return. Plans also need to be in place for remote learning.
“That is why we are launching our education recovery plan, which sets out a substantial strategy for schools and colleges to emerge from lockdown in a way that is safe and sustainable.
“Unions, school leaders, teachers and staff are tired of last-minute guidance and u-turns. Families, also, have been stung once too often by false hope.
“Government must now initiate structured talks with education unions, based upon all available evidence, about how a phased return is best managed, irrespective of whether that is 8 March or not. School leaders can then begin making arrangements, confident that their time is not being wasted and that there is real potential for long-term solutions. The NEU would enter such talks with a determination to make our recovery plan a reality, benefiting staff and pupils alike.
“Simply declaring schools and colleges Covid-secure does not make them so. With a death toll of 100,000 a stark reminder of the seriousness of our situation, and with no clear way out of lockdown, it is incumbent on Boris Johnson to finally change tack. We offer this updated plan to the Prime Minister in the spirit in which the first was intended – to secure a safe and uninterrupted return to education for all.”
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