Union tells teachers not to engage with school reopening plans

The gates of a closed school in North Yorkshire.
Adam Vaughan / Shutterstock.com

Teachers and other school staff have been told to not ‘engage’ with plans for school reopenings next month, with a union claiming that the government’s plan to bring the UK out of lockdown is ‘too fast, too confusing and too risky’.

The National Education Union (NEU) has advised members to tell headteachers they were “[awaiting] further advice from [their] union” if they were asked about their availability for wider working after 1 June.

On Sunday, the Prime Minister told the nation that it was hoped pupils in reception, year one and year six would be able to return to school next month, provided the Covid-19 infection rate continued to decrease. Pupils in other year groups were expected to return to school in phases.

However, in the letter to members published by the Mirror, the NEU said: “So far the government has not engaged with us to discuss any further advice on social distancing, testing in schools, PPE or about those who are vulnerable, including BME staff.

“No school or college can make plans based on the information we currently have from government.

“Our strong advice is that, on this basis, you should currently not engage with any planning based on a wider reopening of schools.”

Commenting on the publication of a guidance document for schools yesterday, NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “The National Education Union want schools to move to a wider opening as soon as it is safe to do so, but it is not safe yet. This timetable is reckless. This timetable is simply not safe.”

She said head teachers had been “inundated with questions and queries” from staff and parents.

“The government has stoked teachers’ anxiety and triggered real confusion because the announcement is inconsistent on the importance of social distancing and how or whether it can be achieved in schools.

The National Education Union want schools to move to a wider opening as soon as it is safe to do so, but it is not safe yet. This timetable is reckless. This timetable is simply not safe,” – Dr Mary Bousted, National Education Union

“The NEU is advising our school leader members today that we are in no position to start planning for wider opening yet. This reckless and rushed approach has created a level of uncertainty and stress for school leaders which is simply unmanageable,” Bousted said.

Guidance for the sector said schools and nurseries would likely need to reducing the size of classes and keep children in small groups, without mixing with others; stagger break and lunch times, drop offs and pick ups; increase the frequency of cleaning; reduce the use of shared items; and utilise outdoor space.

The Department for Education said it was asking schools and childcare providers to plan on the basis they will open on 1 June, ahead of further scientific advice.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The latest scientific advice indicates it will be safe for more children to return to school from 1 June, but we will continue to limit the overall numbers in school and introduce protective measures to prevent transmission.

“This marks the first step towards having all young people back where they belong – in nurseries, schools and colleges – but we will continue to be led by the scientific evidence and will only take further steps when the time is right.”

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6 Responses to Union tells teachers not to engage with school reopening plans

  1. Avatar
    Michelle Ray 12 May 2020 at 4:44 pm #

    It is definitely NOT safe to reopen primary schools as young children CANNOT socially distance and also staff frequently have to change children who have had toileting accidents, blow their noses and administer first aid!

  2. Avatar
    N Hurst 13 May 2020 at 7:49 pm #

    Your assertion is not based on evidence. Please take a look at the section on School Opening in this running set of reviews by Pueyo. This provides evidence on actual rates of infection/viral carriage in young children. They are extremely low.

    https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-prevent-seeding-and-spreading-e84ed405e37d

    Please balance any risk against the every day risks of children and teachers going to and from school, their exposure to pollution from traffic etc and of course the well documented long damage even short school absences do to kids long term prospects – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We need kids to get back to school as soon as possible.

    Teachers need to engage with their employers to find the best way forward – simply saying we won’t engage is not responsible. Having teachers in our family, I also believe many teachers want to engage in dialogue, not a standoff.

  3. Avatar
    Teacher 13 May 2020 at 8:35 pm #

    It’s less safe for those of us who could lose our jobs to leave our kids with our elderly relatives.

    Teachers, you’ve got a good deal, I know you do as I married one. Get over it.

    • Avatar
      Michelle. 18 May 2020 at 6:23 pm #

      So the government says it’s not safe for me to see my baby Grandson or my elderly parents however, I’m supposed to spend the day in a classroom with 15 children that I don’t know without any protection and that’s ok. Children that will not be able to socially distance.
      I work in a deprived area and have been going into work to teach vulnerable children and key workers children. Lots of the vulnerable children have been very open about the fact that their families have broken social distancing rules.
      Everyone is considering the risk to the children but very few think that teachers deserve protection.
      How you feel that means that we have it so good I’m not really sure.
      Perhaps you would like to go in my place.

      • Avatar
        john lawson 20 Jun 2020 at 9:10 pm #

        My NHS Pharmicist daughter working permanently on covid wards since the start of the pandemic,who was told she has no option of days off and will have to do overtime when required,would gladly swap positions if it werent for the fact she loves her job and considers herself to be a professional who thinks its her duty to help others.She and her colleagues have not put forward a 169 bullet point paper to be considered before they do their job.
        Now listening to you it makes me confirm my attitude towards teachers,they do not consider themselves as professionals who takes care of childrens care and education ,but only to think of themselves and not to be the caring profession they put forward.
        Children have a very low chance of getting the virus but if you used commonsense,imaginative, creative and positive ideas the problems can be overcome.

  4. Avatar
    john lawson 20 Jun 2020 at 8:49 pm #

    Is not time to have a can do attitude rather than this negative and politically enhanced stance,do your job with imagination intuition and with the care of the educational needs of the children,the governments advice is a guidance,use your commonsense and creativity to create a working solution
    What would have happened if the NHS staff refused to engage in their job,and you can argue they have ppe,but I would have 100 children in my presence than 1 person with severe covid19!
    What about the shop workers,Itake it teachers and their families go into supermarkets without thinking the staff didn`t put forward 169 bullet points before they considered to go to work.
    So come on teachers, do not be the only profession not to get this problem solved and the country back to some normality.

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