Teachers urged to ‘escalate’ safety concerns when schools reopen

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A teaching union has supported a reopening of schools in September but has called for a thorough testing regime and has provided members with a checklist of safety measures that should be enforced.

The National Education Union has agreed that a robust testing regime at all schools and colleges should be in place to help staff and pupils stay safe. However, schools minister Nick Gibb has ruled out testing for teachers and pupils who do not have coronavirus symptoms.

When pupils return in the autumn, schools will create “bubbles” of pupils to encompass year groups, implement strict hygiene measures and one-way systems, and stagger start and finish times.

The NEU has urged its members to “escalate” an issue if any of their concerns about Covid-19 safety measures are not met, and issued them with a list of questions to ask school leadership teams.

The document states: “Union reps should seek meetings with school leaders in order to discuss plans for full opening. School leaders’ difficult responsibility will be assisted by comprehensive union input.”

The questions include, among others: “Will lidded bins with double bagging be available in every classroom and work area?”; “Will each classroom be provided with gloves and disinfectant spray in case a pupil coughs or sneezes on a piece of equipment or furniture?”; and “Will communication on social distancing take place regularly to reinforce key messages with translation into the preferred language of employees for whom English is not the first language?”.

NEU president Amanda Martin told Times Radio over the weekend: “This is people’s safety. What costs safety?

“It’s about ensuring confidence, it’s about ensuring safety and if that means that’s going through those 25 pages and have conversations about ‘what would happen if this happened?’, then that’s exactly what we need to do and plan, planning is essential.”

She said the NEU had urged schools to be ready to open in September.

“The fact that the government are coming out this morning saying we’re a national priority is a really positive thing”, said Martin.

Care minister Helen Whately said getting children back to school in the autumn was a national priority.

She told Sky News: “Schools will be a safe environment for children to be taught in; of course in the event a child has a temperature or any type of symptoms, it’s very important they get a rapid test.

“Schools will be provided with home test kits.”

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