Four main teaching unions – including the NEU and NASUWT – have said that the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak has not disrupted their national conference plans yet – but hand-washing and good hygiene is being encouraged.
Headteachers and senior leaders attending this weekend’s Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) annual conference in Birmingham are to be asked to “maintain good hand and respiratory hygiene” amid the current coronavirus outbreak.
Despite the outbreak, organisers have said there are no plans to cancel or postpone the event yet – with other major teaching unions also saying their annual conferences are expected to go ahead as planned over the coming months.
The general secretary of ASCL, Geoff Barton, said:
We are obviously conscious of the situation regarding coronavirus and have been following government updates carefully.
There is currently no restriction on holding public events. We are liaising with the conference venue about the situation, and delegates, staff and other visitors will be encouraged to maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene during the event.
Other teaching unions the NEU and NASUWT, who have plans to hold their annual conferences next month, have also said that as things stand they are due to go ahead. The NEU are holding their conference in Bournemouth, while NASUWT’s conference is to take place in Birmingham.
A spokesperson for the NAHT school leaders’ union – whose conference is scheduled to take place in Cardiff in May – said:
There are no plans to cancel at the moment. Obviously the situation is constantly evolving, so it’s possible our plans could change if the government takes stronger measures, but we’re not there yet.
The official stance from the government is that they are still in the “contain” phase of their response to the outbreak. However, the next stage of the response – the “delay” phase – is expected to involve ordering a reduction in the number of large-scale gatherings as well as school closures, which could put the conference’s in jeopardy.
Action that would be considered (in the delay phase) could include population distancing strategies (such as school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large-scale gatherings) to slow the spread of the disease throughout the population, while ensuring the country’s ability to continue to run as normally as possible.