Commenting on the petition (1), which was launched on Tuesday night and has already clocked up 83,887 signatures, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Loose talk costs lives, and unfortunately there has been far too much unhelpful speculation about when schools might fully re-open. The persistent press coverage deeply concerns our members, who would be at immediate risk if Government was too hasty in relaxing lockdown measures.

“Following our letter to the Prime Minister on the need to see the evidence on which he will base that decision, and the importance of keeping everyone in the school environment safe (2), we launched a petition to that effect. I am pleased that so many have supported it and the number continues to grow.

“As yet there is no clarity as to how social distancing would or even could be implemented in schools, particularly for younger age groups. Even though the majority of children are considered low risk, their teachers and families are not. The fear is that asymptomatic children will put adult staff in danger, so it is essential that we see a programme of testing, PPE and contact tracing throughout the education sector before schools are fully re-opened.

“It is concerning that during his appearance in front of the Health Committee today, Matt Hancock made no mention of school staff when referring to the expansion of testing across emergency services and other key workers.

“Hope must not get the better of reason. Lives matter, and that is why we fully support the Government being led by the science – but only when they are open with the public and take the profession with them in their decision making.”

Editor’s Note

  1. Open schools when it is safe petition.
  2. Letter to the Prime Minister, 14 April.
  3. Schools Week column by Dr Mary Bousted, 16 April.