After ONS shows 60% rise in Covid cases in England in past week, NEU writes to Prime Minister about his failures to address school safety

In light of today's announcement by the Office of National Statistics that COVID cases have risen by 60% in the last week, the joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, have written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson reiterating the measures that must be carried out now – as a matter of urgency – if we are to ensure education continues for all pupils.

In June, the Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union wrote to the Prime Minister outlining its proposals for an Education Recovery Plan. Britain was at the height of lockdown and the plan provided a route map for safe wider reopening of schools and colleges in September. 

To this day, the NEU has received no reply.  This cannot continue. Schools and colleges need answers and support.

Government must ensure safety in schools and colleges so that children and young people's education can continue. In the letter to Boris Johnson, the NEU is highlighting the following most critical measures needed to be taken by Government to ensure schools and colleges operate as effectively as possible through national, regional or local COVID spikes.

  • improve the availability of testing and the efficiency of the test track trace programme. 
  • report to trade unions of all school outbreaks, looking at causes, steps taken in response and what can be learned from them. 
  • carry out regular asymptomatic testing of school staff and older secondary students. 
  • monitor ventilation in schools and compulsory use of masks in higher areas of incidence where other mitigations weren’t possible.
  • ensure clinically extremely vulnerable staff are supported to work from home. 
  • make emergency efforts to reduce class sizes, mobilising supply and younger teachers to take them. 
  • source new spaces for schools to enable them to be less crowded and better able to support social distancing. 
  • guarantee all school health and safety costs will be reimbursed centrally. 

See Editor’s Note below for the full text of the 10 September letter, which goes into greater depth on each of the above points, as well as a link to our earlier communication on 10 June.

Commenting on the letter, Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union, said:

“Boris Johnson has had three months to get a grip on the practical realities of getting schools and colleges open and keeping them safe. He has failed staff, parents and young people. His wilful disregard for advice offered to him, matched with his regular displays of blind optimism, are an insult to everyone in the community.

“School and college leaders, teachers and other staff are worried about access to tests, with many being advised to travel hundreds of miles to obtain one. This is not a sustainable way of coping with outbreaks. Schools and colleges must have quick access to trace, track and test, and not be continually confronted with obstacles that should have been resolved months ago.

“It is vital Government does everything in its power to permit schools and colleges to remain open, for as many young people as possible, for as long as possible.

“We want schools to be open, and to stay open. But we also want them to be safe. Our plan gives the nation the best chance of achieving that aim.” 

ENDS

Editor’s Note

10 June letter to Boris Johnson

Today’s letter to Boris Johnson (11 September):

2020-156-NEU

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