Schools have made right decision to delay reopening, say unions
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Two unions have praised schools across North Somerset for putting the safety of staff and children first by delaying the reopening of schools following an outbreak of coronavirus.
North Somerset Council announced on Friday it had contacted all North Somerset schools advising them to delay reopening until June 8 as a precautionary measure after an outbreak of Covid-19 at Weston General Hospital and a surge in local cases.
GMB, the union for school support staff, and the National Education Union (NEU) believes schools have made the right decision.
The prime minister announced schools could open to year one, reception and year six from June 1, but education leaders in North Somerset will not be opening the schools to extra pupils for at least another week.
Jon Reddiford, district secretary of North Somerset NEU said: “This is a difficult decision, but absolutely the correct one.
“We are looking forward to welcoming students back to school, but only when it is safe to do so.
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“With the spike in cases in North Somerset, and the closure of Weston Hospital, the only rational decision is to delay opening.
“We regret that it is school staff and not government advisors that have been acting in the interests of their community’s health.”
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The NEU has been arguing that it is not safe for students to return until the union’s five tests have been met.
The NEU wants the number of new coronavirus cases to be much lower, with a downward trend, and confidence that new cases are known and counted promptly.
It is calling for a national plan for social distancing in schools, as well as appropriate, PPE; comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff; protocols in place to test a whole school when a case occurs; and for vulnerable staff to work from home.
Tim Northover, GMB organiser, added: “We think that these schools have made the right decision.
“To the very best of my knowledge, there is not a single school in North Somerset that will be opening to these three year groups on June 1 – and very few schools taking any pupils at all on June 1.
“This is a solid victory for GMB and all our members involved in the campaign. Thank you to all our members who got involved to play a vital part in this, working alongside North Somerset Councillors and sister unions.
“After the recent closure of Weston General Hospital due to a spike in Covid-19 admissions, it’s right that the schools put the safety of the community first and limit the chances of exposure.
“I’d also like to pay tribute to our hardworking GMB heroes on the frontline in the hospital who have been at the forefront of this fight.”