Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 17, May 2, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum

Teachers Step Up Fight to Make their Voices
Heard and Ensure Safety for Staff and Pupils

The National Education Union (NEU) is among those unions organising that teachers speak out and that what they say must be acted upon and not swept aside in an off-hand and arrogant manner by the government. The NEU has been organising mass phone-ins, for example, to give teachers the opportunity to speak in their own name, voice their concerns, and strengthen their conviction that it their concerns are serious, that the government must listen and consult with the teachers and their unions, and that this is a matter which concerns the future of education, and not simply the concerns of a "special interest group".

The NEU has already gathered over 200,000 signatures for its petition that schools must only re-open when it is safe to do so. Such is the arrogance of those who hold executive power, that the concerns of the teachers are being brushed aside by Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education. This has led to such anger and frustration among the teachers, and opposition to the government's turning a deaf ear to the teachers just and profound concerns. In this context, the NEU has launched five tests for government before schools can re-open. Teachers and the NEU believe that these test must be capable of being passed in order to create the necessary confidence amongst parents and staff that it is safe to re-open schools. The government had already said that it had its own five tests to relax the lockdown. Below we reproduce the NEU's five tests that the government has to meet before moving to the further opening of schools.

5 Tests for Government before schools can re-open

We want to begin to re-open schools and colleges as soon as we can. But this needs to be safe for society, for children and their families and the staff who work in them.

We have these five tests which the Government should show will be met by reliable evidence, peer-reviewed science and transparent decision making.

Test 1: Much lower numbers of Covid-19 cases

The new case count must be much lower than it is now, with a sustained downward trend, with confidence that new cases are known and counted promptly. And the Government must have extensive arrangements for testing and contact tracing to keep it that way.

Test 2: A national plan for social distancing

The Government must have a national plan including parameters for both appropriate physical distancing and levels of social mixing in schools, as well as for appropriate PPE, which will be locally negotiated at school-by-school and local authority level.

Test 3: Testing, testing, testing!

Comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff to ensure our schools and colleges don't become hot spots for Covid-19.

Test 4: Whole school strategy

Protocols to be put in place to test a whole school or college when a case occurs and for isolation to be strictly followed.

Test 5: Protection for the vulnerable

Vulnerable staff, and staff who live with vulnerable people, must work from home, fulfilling their professional duties to the extent that is possible. Plans must specifically address the protection of vulnerable parents, grandparents and carers.

We believe that these test must be capable of being passed in order to create the necessary confidence amongst parents and staff

Commenting on the launch of the five tests, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, said: "We believe that these test must be capable of being passed in order to create the necessary confidence amongst parents and staff.

"Teachers, parents and staff have responded with the utmost seriousness and professionalism to the Covid-19 crisis. They need to be confident that public health is the first priority in all considerations concerning how we move forward and together combat this terrible virus. If confidence and clarity are lacking, there is a risk of chaos and greater spread of the virus.

"The National Education Union is very clear that for schools to reopen we need to have sound scientific evidence that it is safe to do so. The NEU's petition to that effect has over 200,000 signatures. [1] The strength of support is a clear indication that parents as well as school staff do not want the Government to rush into decisions that could cost lives."


[1] See:


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