Teaching unions look set once again to clash with the government over plans to reopen schools next month, with one union chief today raising fears tha
Teaching unions look set once again to clash with the government over plans to reopen schools next month, with one union chief today raising fears that classrooms could become ‘centres of transmission’ for Covid-19.
Paul Whiteman, head of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said the government must lay out the level of risk to pupils, teachers and parents before plans to mitigate it can be discussed.
Meanwhile, the head of the UK’s biggest teaching union the National Education Union (NEU), has also called for the government to share the science behind its plans to reopen schools – while hitting out at some of the government’s advice, which he claimed has ‘cost lives’.
It comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson demanded unions ‘do their duty’ and let children start returning to the classrooms, with the government aiming to reopen primary schools as early as June 1.
Speaking on Radio Four today’s programme, Mr Whiteman, whose union represents 31,000 school leaders, said: ‘I think what needs to be recognised first of all is that teachers and school leaders do want to see pupils back to class.
Paul Whiteman (left), head of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said the government must lay out the level of risk to pupils, teachers and parents before plans to mitigate it can be discussed. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (right) has demanded unions ‘do their duty’ and let children start returning to the classrooms
Schools have been partially closed since March following the outbreak of coronavirus in the UK.
‘We’ve been engaging along with other unions and with the department for education to discuss exactly how this can be done and how it can be done safely.
‘What our school leaders are very concerned about is schools becoming centres of transmission and this is the question we want more clarification on, specifically around transmission from children to adults.
‘The government has asserted publicly that their isn’t the risk of transmission we fear. There’s been some commentary but we haven’t seen the science underpinning that. ‘
Mr Whitehead also invited the government to write to him setting out the science behind the decision it makes with regards to reopening of schools.
Meanwhile, Kevin Courtney, head of the NEU, has also called for the government to share the science behind its decisions with teaching unions.
He also hit out at some of the science behind the government’s previous decision in relation to coronavirus, describing it as ‘wrong’ and claimed it had ‘cost lives’.
Kevin Courtney (pictured), the head of the UK’s biggest teaching union the National Education Union (NEU), has also called for the government to share the science behind its plans to reopen schools while speaking on Good Morning Britain today
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Courtney, whose union represents over 400,000 school staff, said: ‘We want to see the science in public so that scientists can comment on it.
‘That would give confidence if the science is support, but also I think some of the British science has gone wrong that the government advice has been based on.
‘So far our government has abandoned community testing when they shouldn’t have done, we went into lockdown too late, we had Cheltenham Festival when we really shouldn’t have done and there have been mistakes which have costs lives.’
The comments come as yesterday ministers urged unions to work with them to get schools up and running by June 1 after a study found better-off children are doing 75 minutes a day more home learning than the poorest.
The danger of the coronavirus lockdown widening the gap with the most disadvantaged pupils was highlighted in research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).
Meanwhile, academies and the Church of England have heaped pressure on unions by warning that delay damages the prospects of children who can least afford it.
The chief executives of 22 academy trusts warn schools must reopen soon to avoid ‘irreparable’ damage to vulnerable children.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove yesterday escalated the row by telling union leaders: ‘If you really care about children, you will want them to be in school.’
Mental health charities have also raised concerns that time spent away from friends will be damaging to childrens’ mental health.
Michael Gove yesterday escalated the government’s row with unions by saying: ‘If you really care about children, you will want them back in schools.’
Asked today if some local authorities could be penalised if they fail to reopen schools, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘We are working with them to try and ensure that that doesn’t happen and to address those concerns.
‘It’s in the children’s interest to get them back to school and I hope that we can address the concerns that they have.’
Britain’s head teachers’ union has backed plans for schools to reopen on June 1 following meetings with key government advisers.
The Association of School and College Leaders claim teachers were no more at risk than any other profession heading back to work as coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease.
Over the weekend, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson outlined the plans for reception, year 1 and 6 to return from June 1.
He insisted that pupils ‘stand to lose more by staying away from school’.
He outlined measures schools will take avoid a surge in the killer disease which has killed 34,500 people in the UK and infected 241,000.
Measures include small classes and keeping children in small socially-distanced groups.