Commenting on the action needed to keep staff and young people safe in schools and colleges that have remained open, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“In less than three weeks, according to our country's current trajectory, we will be in the same situation as Italy.
“Our priority as a union is to our members and the children and young people they work with. We are concerned that Government advice for schools is not currently strong enough. We have got to get on the front foot if we are to slow transmission and flatten the curve.
“This means testing of all education staff, and that no one at heightened risk attends schools and colleges from today. No staff should attend who are vulnerable or would go home to family who are vulnerable. We also need to see coherent rotas for those who continue to go to their place of work.
“Virus testing must be available to schools that remain open. With so many parents on the key worker list, this means an extensive effort is required to make sure every school can access the tests. This is no time for half-measures.
“Government protocols on distance and hand-washing for children have to ensure safety. The vast majority of children are themselves at low risk but are nonetheless carriers, so we must ensure that intensified cleanliness and minimised exposure rapidly become the norm in those schools which are having to remain open.
“We are liaising with the Department for Education to ensure action is taken on all of these points. If we are to help the community, which we should, we need maximum protection from the Government.
Our members' lives are doing enormously brave work right now. As with NHS workers, they are putting themselves at risk. Our ethical responsibility is to them. The NEU will do everything in its power to protect members at this critical time.”