Commenting on Nadhim Zahawi’s call for retired teachers to return to school in order to ease Covid-19 pressures, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"Of course we support measures that could help to reduce education disruption. With this call for retired teachers to come forward the Government is admitting they are assuming there will be substantial disruption of education in January. 

"It is important to say that this disruption is likely to be made worse because of the Government's failure to put in place the mitigations and safety measures we have been calling for - on ventilation, air filtration, mask wearing and isolation of very close contacts. 

"We still need those mitigations to be put in place - even to help with the effort of recruitment of temporary retired staff. Some of these older colleagues will be concerned about their chance of contracting Covid-19 and better mitigations will be necessary to reassure them. 

"We are also extremely concerned about the proposal to recruit these retired staff through teacher supply agencies which rake off scarce funds from schools to maximise their profits whilst minimising the pay they offer supply teachers. That is not the right way to behave in response to a national call to arms. 

"Northern Ireland and Scotland have much better systems for employment of supply staff and these could be stood up quickly in England if there were sufficient political will. Local authorities are well placed to scale up or create pools of supply."