The petition is supported by 66,000 parents, more than 150,000 teachers, almost 10,000 heads, and nearly 50,000 support staff. Over 7,000 doctors and health workers have signed it.

At time of writing 347,787 people have added their name to the petition, with hundreds more added per hour. A large proportion are members of the education profession, but over 125,000 of the total are parents concerned about their family’s safety once restrictions are lifted on school attendance.

The petition, which was launched on 14 April, demands that schools are not re-opened to a wider pupil intake until it is safe to do so. (1) The signatories ask that Government publish detailed modelling and a full evidence base alongside any official proposals, as well as what a comprehensive national strategy will look like in terms of testing, contact tracing, quarantining new cases, PPE, cleaning, and the safety of vulnerable people connected with the school environment, be it staff, pupil or cohabitees.

This rise in signatures follows a snapshot survey of almost 2,000 NEU members currently attending their school workplace, conducted over the weekend (2), which shows: 

  • 61% of respondents said they were ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about the social distancing measures in their school for pupils. This is in the context of just 2% of pupils attending school, according to national statistics.
  • When the question turned to similar measures for staff, 50% expressed concern. One in five are ‘very concerned’.
  • Just one in ten (11%) said their school was conducting a temperature check for staff and pupils.
  • Around a quarter (22%) said their school did not have sufficient soap and/or hand sanitiser. The same proportion said there was no routine of hand washing at their school.

This week Parentkind, a leading organisation representing parents, has endorsed the NEU’s 5 Tests for Government (3). Together we have written to education secretary Gavin Williamson to re-emphasise our concerns. (4)

Commenting on the rise in signatures, Kevin Courtney, joint general escretary of the National Education Union, said:

“The support for our petition is the clear result of a further weekend of intense speculation in the press about possible return dates. Parents, teachers, heads and school staff are wanting to make their voices heard as anticipation grows. They are rightly anxious for Government to listen and do the right thing.

“School staff are working hard to support every one of their pupils, whether at school or remotely. School leaders also have a responsibility to protect the safety of staff and pupils, but they cannot magic PPE or tests into existence. 

“If Government is serious about being ‘guided by the science’, then they must be absolutely open with the public about the reasoning behind any relaxation of lockdown measures for schools. They must also make good, and do so quickly, on a comprehensive national strategy to protect everyone connected to the school environment: staff, pupils, and families. 

“To do anything less will be a betrayal of the patience and determination of the general public, not least parents, who have abided by the lockdown restrictions thus far. The Prime Minister would do well to reflect on this while he considers his decision about schools, and to take parents and the profession with him.”


Editor’s note:

  1. NEU petition to open schools when it is safe.
  2. Snapshot survey of almost 2,000 NEU members currently attending their school workplace conducted 2-3 May.
  3. Our “Five Tests” were launched on 1 May.
  4. Parentkind/NEU joint letter, 5 May.