Given that “the science” is clearly having to bend to political will, at a time when the spread of the virus is accelerating and dangerous, we feel it is beholden on us as your union to meet with you, hear your views, and do what we can to support you.
The most recent advice from SAGE* is that schools should not open in January - other than for children of key workers and vulnerable children.
NEU appreciate that in many schools measures have been in place since September to allow schools to open but, according to SAGE, those measures may no longer be sufficient. What virologists have been reporting for months, and what is now generally accepted, is that school pupils can be very effective incubators and spreaders of the virus. The new, more aggressive, covid variant represents a step-change that requires significantly improved safety measures in schools.
NEU are concerned that many school risk assessments put in place in an earlier phase of Covid-19 have not been updated to take account of the new variant, and the changing environment.
Revised risk assessments and revised practice in schools is now urgent.
NEU believe that based on what SAGE are saying many schools may not be safe to allow our members to return to teaching full classes.
NEU argue that school Covid-19 Risk Assessments should be reviewed now and must include proper consideration of:
- a review of all risk assessments (whole school and Individual) in the light of the much higher transmission of the new variant;
- much lower class sizes, effectively leading to rotational learning systems;
- social distancing of 2 metres between pupils in all schools and colleges to replace the current practice of cohort-distancing which allows whole year groups to mix without any social distancing;
- protective bubbles of no more than 8 pupils;
- masks to be worn by pupils and staff; and
- until vaccinated*, Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) staff and women in the third trimester of pregnancy to work from home, supporting students who are at home.
*NEU argue that all school, college and early-years settings staff are made a top priority for vaccination - along with health care staff and starting with the most vulnerable; and
We believe that most Principals welcome the opportunity to discuss safe workplaces and safe practices openly and collaboratively with their staff, particularly in the light of the new and aggressive variant of Covid-19 at large.
We are keen to hear what is happening in your school, to hear your concerns, to take stock of where we are, and to support you as one of our NEU School Representatives.
This will be an important meeting and we are keen that you, or one of your school colleagues, attend the meeting – so feel free to share this invite with your NEU colleagues.
Remember if you are not a rep – or if there is no rep in your school – you are particularly welcome to join us on this zoom call and get active in your union.
Every school should be represented.
If you are not a rep, and if there is no NEU Rep in your workplace, we would be delighted if you would consider taking on that role.
There are many benefits to being involved in the National Education Union.
- You'll be well informed about education issues and get to influence them.
- You'll build up a strong network of NEU contacts across NI
- It could even open up career opportunities you hadn't considered.
- With the promise of first-class support from our professional staff and training courses, you don't need to worry about being on your own.