Teachers leaders urge caution over lifting lockdown
Opening schools too soon could have serious implications for both staff and pupils, teachers leaders have warned.
The general secretaries of 10 teacher trade unions across the UK and Ireland have written to education ministers urging “significant caution in any consideration of reopening schools.”
The letter, on behalf of almost one million teachers and education staff, warns of the "very real risk of creating a spike in the transmission of the virus by a premature opening of schools."
They want to see "sufficient capacity" to “test trace and isolate” Covid-19 before schoosl are re-opened, along with “significant operational changes [being] in place to ensure effective social distancing, strong hygiene routines linked to thorough cleansing practices, appropriate PPE [being] available where required, and ongoing risk assessments in place to monitor operations.”
Dr Patrick Roach from the NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union said: "It must not be forgotten that the decision to close schools and colleges to the majority of children was made on public health grounds and that any decision to partially or fully reopen schools and colleges must be guided by the same overriding public health interest.
"Teachers, support staff, pupils and their families must not be used as an experiment and it would be reckless for any Government to ignore the scientific evidence and thereby endanger lives."
The letter comes hard on the heels of a survey which showed that a majority of teachers and school staff are unhappy with current social distancing measures in their institutions.
Over the weekend) the National Education Union conducted a snapshot survey of 2,560 mainstream school staff in England about the management of the Covid-19 crisis.
The data showed at least half of those currently working in school settings were concerned, or very concerned about the social distancing measures for staff or pupils.
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said of the results: ""There should be no mad rush to re-open schools. It must be done with great care, and alongside a profession who feel confident about safety measures being adequate and fit for purpose.
"Parents also agree with us – they have shown immense patience in recent weeks, for which all school staff are grateful. But that goodwill and effort from the public will be squandered by returning pupils too hastily. Safety must come first.
"We need to see evidence of a sustained downward trend in cases, a national plan for social distancing and PPE, comprehensive access to testing for staff and pupils and a whole school strategy for when cases emerge before plans can be made to open schools on a wider basis than at present."