|Volume 50 Number 14, April 18, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Workers and their unions have issued a warning that the government must not fully re-open schools until staff safety is scientifically assured.
A statement issued by the GMB, Unison and Unite the union reads: "We call on the government to provide immediate reassurance to staff that any strategy for re-opening schools is discussed with relevant unions and other bodies at an early stage. Any proposals must be shared well in advance of any implementation, and re-opening schools should only happen once there is clear published scientific evidence that can command the confidence of the schools' workforce that it is safe to do so. Suggestions in the media that the government in England is considering reopening schools has caused huge anxiety amongst school staff and parents"
The statement also includes demands for sufficient PPE, cleaning supplies and regular testing.
The National Education Union (NEU) has also launched a petition which at the time of writing has garnered more than 80,000 signatures.
NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: "Loose talk costs lives, and unfortunately there has been far too much unhelpful speculation about when schools might fully re-open. The persistent press coverage deeply concerns our members, who would be at immediate risk if government was too hasty in relaxing lock-down measures.
"Following our letter to the Prime Minister on the need to see the evidence on which he will base that decision, and the importance of keeping everyone in the school environment safe, we launched a petition to that effect. I am pleased that so many have supported it and the number continues to grow.
"As yet there is no clarity as to how social distancing would or even could be implemented in schools, particularly for younger age groups. Even though the majority of children are considered low risk, their teachers and families are not. The fear is that asymptomatic children will put adult staff in danger, so it is essential that we see a programme of testing, PPE and contact tracing throughout the education sector before schools are fully re-opened.
"It is concerning that during his appearance in front of the Health Committee yesterday, Matt Hancock made no mention of school staff when referring to the expansion of testing across emergency services and other key workers.
"Hope must not get the better of reason. Lives matter, and that is why we fully support the government being led by the science - but only when they are open with the public and take the profession with them in their decision making."
This last remark underlines that no future plans must be implemented without the teachers and other workers affected by the plans having a decisive say in the decisions.