Unions call for pause in schools reopening

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Monday, January 4th, 2021 12:47pm

By Christian Barnett - Local Democracy Reporter

Teaching unions have called for a pause in children returning to school accusing the government of “creating chaos”.

The statement, signed by teaching unions GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON and Unite, calls for a pause in the reopening of schools for anyone other vulnerable children and the children of key workers with all teaching moving online until schools are made Covid-secure.

Unions said reopening schools would expose workers to “serious risk of ill-health [which] could fuel the pandemic” and said Prime Minister Boris Johnson should be working to ensure all students can work from home until safety at schools is guaranteed.

Teachers and staff continuing to work in schools should be given priority access to Covid vaccines, the statement also said.

“The government’s chaotic handling of the opening of schools has caused confusion for teachers, school staff and parents alike,” the statement said.

“Bringing all pupils back into classrooms while the rate of infection is so high is exposing education sector workers to serious risk of ill-health and could fuel the pandemic.

“Unions have called for a pause in the reopening of schools for anyone other than vulnerable children and children of key workers, and a move to remote learning for all while Covid-secure working arrangements are reviewed. All school staff continuing to work in schools should be given priority access to Covid-19 vaccinations.

“Instead of casually asserting that schools are safe, the Prime Minister should sit down with unions to discuss a joint approach to ensuring safe working arrangements in all schools and prioritising enabling all pupils have the equipment and access they need to receive a high standard of remote learning until the safety of them and the staff in their school can be guaranteed. “

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government’s own advice from SAGE makes it clear that opening schools to all pupils now risks increasing the infection rate. That’s in no-one’s interests.

“Instead of creating chaos for parents and exposing workers to risks, the Prime Minister should be talking to trade unions about what steps are needed to make sure all schools are Covid-Secure.”

NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “The NASUWT is completely committed to ensuring that children can return to school as quickly as possible.

“However, it is now abundantly clear that the pandemic is seriously impacting on the ability of all schools and colleges to continue to operate normally.

“The NASUWT is calling for an immediate nationwide move to remote education for all pupils in primary, secondary and special schools and colleges.”

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