NEU writes letter to Prime Minister asking for “modelling, evidence and plans” regarding rumoured reopening of schools

NEU writes letter to Prime Minister asking for “modelling, evidence and plans” regarding rumoured reopening of schools

- in NEU
school kids in playground

With increasing media speculation that schools may soon be re-opened, teaching union the NEU has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for clarity on how the Government will make such a decision.

The National Education Union has written to the Prime Minister in the wake of increased speculation that the Government may be looking at plans to reopen schools.

The letter raises the safety concerns of those working in the education sector, and requests Boris Johnson share the Government’s “modelling, evidence and plans” before any decision is made.

A number of UK teachers have recently expressed their fears about schools reopening before adequate levels of PPE is made available to all teachers and school staff. The difficulty of enforcing social distancing rules on small children is also a major concern for primary schools.

In the letter, signed by the NEU’s Joint General Secretary’s Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, the union say their “members are disturbed” at the prospect of schools soon reopening, and demand that before any decision to reopen schools is made the Government share:

  • Their modelling on the expected increase in COVID-19 infections and mortalities among children, carers, teachers and support staff as a result of reopening schools
  • Their data on whether the above modelling is based on schools being able to enforce social distancing rules among children (which most primary schools feel is impossible)
  • Whether the modelling is based on establishing regular testing of children and staff, and the availability of adequate PPE

The NEU are also asking the Government to provide information on their wider strategy to defeat coronavirus, given the “increased risk” their members will be taking on if schools are reopened. The letter states:

We have written to you as representatives of staff who in the event of schools re-opening would be asked to accept an increased risk for themselves and the children they teach.

Read the letter in full here:

The NEU’s letter comes after growing speculation that the Government may be considering setting out a plan to reopen schools, with the head of one of the UK’s top academies calling for the Government to set a date to reopen schools and colleges.

Hamid Patel, chief executive of Star Academies, which runs a number of outstanding state schools in London, Birmingham, Manchester and other cities, said setting a date would provide a sense of purpose and put a stop to the distraction of endless speculation.

Mr Patel said:

Confirmation of a date will of course be subject to medical advice – but having a date in mind is essential. This could either be in mid-May or immediately after May half-term.

Setting a date will provide a clear sense of purpose and avoid the confusion and distraction of endless speculation. People will be more likely to maintain compliance with social distancing measures if there is an end-point in sight.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has suggested a phased approach to the reopening of schools, with certain year groups going back first. He said:

The reality is that a vaccination against Covid-19 could be 18 months or more away. So, we are going to need an interim plan.

That could be built around social distancing measures – such as limiting class sizes and staggering break times, the use of protective equipment such as face masks, and regular cleaning of premises.



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