Coronavirus: Teachers set 5 tests for reopening schools

Teachers' leaders say testing for staff and pupils and social distancing are priorities if schools are to reopen safely
1st May 2020, 3:30pm

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Coronavirus: Teachers set 5 tests for reopening schools

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/coronavirus-teachers-set-5-tests-reopening-schools
Coronavirus: Teachers Set Five Tests For Allowing Schools To Reopen

Teachers' leaders have called on the government to meet five tests to ensure that schools can reopen safely.

The tests, drawn up by the NEU teaching union, call for testing of staff and students and a national plan for social distancing within schools before they are reopened.


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Referring to the government's own "five tests" that must be met before wider lockdown measures can be relaxed, the union said the government needed to meet its own tests before schools reopened, and prove these had been met "by reliable evidence, peer-reviewed science and transparent decision-making".

The union's leaders said that without greater clarity over how schools could reopen safely, there was a risk of "chaos" and further spreading of the virus. 

The NEU reopening blueprint comes after a Tes survey revealed that the vast majority of school staff believe social distancing in schools is impossible, and that teachers should be supplied with personal protective equipment (PPE). These issues are also expected to be hammered out at a meeting between the NEU and fellow teaching and schools leaders' unions and government officials today.

Coronavirus: When is it safe to reopen schools?

The NEU's five tests are:

Much lower cases of coronavirus among the population

The union said cases must be much lower than they are currently, with a "sustained downward trend" in numbers infected. It said the government needed "extensive arrangements for testing and contact tracing" to sustain this.

A national plan for social distancing in schools

The government needed to produce a national plan for safe physical distancing within schools, as well as the levels of social mixing that would be safe, including "appropriate PPE" to be arranged on a school-by-school basis and through local authorities.

Test staff and pupils

Schools would need "comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff to ensure our schools and colleges don't become hot spots for Covid-19", the union said.

Whole-school strategy

Arrangements needed to be "put in place to test a whole school or college when a case occurs and for isolation to be strictly followed", the union said.

Protect vulnerable teachers

Vulnerable members of staff, or those who live with medically vulnerable people, "must work from home, fulfilling their professional duties to the extent that is possible", the NEU said, adding that there should be specific planning for the protection of vulnerable parents, grandparents and carers.

 

Commenting on the launch of the five tests, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, said: "We believe that these tests must be capable of being passed in order to create the necessary confidence amongst parents and staff.

"Teachers, parents and staff have responded with the utmost seriousness and professionalism to the Covid-19 crisis.

"They need to be confident that public health is the first priority in all considerations concerning how we move forward and together combat this terrible virus. If confidence and clarity are lacking, there is a risk of chaos and greater spread of the virus.

"The National Education Union is very clear that for schools to reopen we need to have sound scientific evidence that it is safe to do so.

"The NEU's petition to that effect has over 200,000 signatures. The strength of support is a clear indication that parents as well as school staff do not want the government to rush into decisions that could cost lives."

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