Commenting on the announcement of step 4 changes to Covid restrictions in schools, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“Schools and colleges are doing everything they can to keep young people and the wider community safe. We must seriously question the wisdom of the Government's decision to take away so many safety measures.
“These mitigations are being removed at a time when cases are rising, school outbreaks are at the highest level all year and rising sharply, and children remain unvaccinated and at risk of transmitting the virus and suffering Long Covid themselves.
“The Government should publish the results of its trials on daily contact testing as an alternative to self-isolation before changing the system. It should also provide support to schools to organise testing in the autumn term, not leave this burden on already overstretched school and college staff. It would be eminently sensible to bring in Public Health England to organise this work.
“Measures to maintain and improve ventilation by providing air filters and CO2 monitors could be quickly and easily introduced but have instead been ignored. Other simple safety measures such as wearing face masks when moving around the school have been ignored as well.
“The Government must also respond to the crisis of Long Covid by confirming that it recognises the condition as a disability and provide support to those employees affected by Long Covid.
"Gavin Williamson has asked school and college leaders to be patient in their wait for guidance, but it is simply not good enough to leave so much unresolved when so little of the summer term remains. The education secretary promised heads full clarity the moment step 4 of the roadmap was reached, so there will be considerable anger and concern if he does not make good on his word.
"This is not a Government which oversees, but one which overlooks. It has failed to take account of the alarming deterioration in self-testing numbers among school-age children, dropping from 60% in mid-March to just 15% today. The decision to remove requirements for masks in secondary classrooms from mid-May has led to a significant rise in cases of which Government appears oblivious.
"This is neglectful and reckless decision-making, when schools and colleges quite obviously need the backing of Government to ensure their workplace remains safe.
"The NEU has always said that we should hope for the best but plan for the worst, and base decisions on the science and the data. The Government appears to have no concern for other eventualities, pinning everything on hope. Schools and colleges have been through this several times before and leaders will be appalled that yet again so little is being done to support them."