Education union calls for robust safety measures as schools prepare to reopen

Empty classroom

The National Education Union believes it is a gamble to not have a phased reopening of schools. - Credit: Pixabay

The National Education Union (NEU) has raised concerns over the UK government's plan to return students to school next week.

Schools in North Somerset are due to reopen to all pupils on March 8, according to the roadmap unveiled by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with regular Covid-19 tests for secondary pupils and staff to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

However, North Somerset's NEU branch secretary believes the Government is at risk of making the same mistakes of not following the scientific evidence correctly.

Covid-19 rapid test kit

Routine testing will be carried out on students and teaching staff as part of the Government's plan. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jon Reddiford said: "Time and again in this pandemic the Government has not followed the science, closing schools too late and then opening them too early. 

“The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments are reopening their schools in a phased way as SAGE have recommended. This is the sensible way forward for England, too. We all want to see schools and colleges open, but it must be done sustainably."

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) agreed in a meeting on February 11 that a phased return to schooling would allow for closer monitoring of any 'potential implications' of lifting lockdown measures.

It said: "There are a number of uncertainties in the modelling including the potential network implications of reopening schools.

Most Read

"A phased reopening would allow the effects to be assessed which would be valuable if schools were one of the first things to reopen, as there will be more uncertainties in the early stages of releasing measures (eg around the impact of vaccines).” 

Mr Reddiford stated this has not been the case and Boris Johnson must now ensure the right safety measures are in place for schools from March 8 onwards.

He said: “Boris Johnson has pressed ahead with this gamble on the wider opening of schools and colleges in one swoop and ignored the advice for a phased return.

"To mitigate against this and prevent another lockdown it is incumbent now for the Government to ensure robust safety measures are in place in our schools and colleges.

"Testing and the wearing of face masks in secondary school and college classrooms is a step forward, but we also need to see the issues of ventilation in classrooms and PPE for staff addressed in these coming weeks."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter