Teachers are not being heard on Covid, warn heads

School leaders say 'there is a big disconnect' between the prime minister's office and the DfE
15th October 2020, 1:29pm

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Teachers are not being heard on Covid, warn heads

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/teachers-are-not-being-heard-covid-warn-heads
Coronavirus: Paul Whiteman, The Naht General Secretary, Says There Is Disconnect Between The Prime Minister's Office & The Dfe Over Schools

A "big disconnect" between Downing Street and the Department for Education is preventing teachers' concerns from impacting on government decisions, a teaching union leader has said.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders' union, highlighted this issue at the Schools North East Summit, which took place online today.

He was asked why schools' concerns about practical problems during Covid-19 did not get through to decision-makers in government.


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Mr Whiteman said: "There is a big disconnect between the big political picture that sits with Number 10 and the discussions that we are having with the DfE

"So the discussions we have with the DfE can still pretty much be categorised as talking about those practicalities. We don't always agree but there are conversations about the practicalities.

Coronavirus: 'Lack of communication' over schools

"But there is such a tight hold on what happens at the moment from Number 10, and Number 10 wants to make sure its response to the pandemic is controlled by the prime minister's office, which, I am afraid, sometimes overrides all the practical issues that we were talking about."

He highlighted the plan for primary schools to reopen in full before the summer holiday - which he said was never going to be achievable - as an example of this.

He told delegates at the Schools North East summit that this plan announced by prime minister Boris Johnson had come as a complete surprise to him and he questioned whether it was also a surprise to education secretary Gavin Williamson.

Mr Whiteman said: "The best example of that was the proposal to open primary schools fully before the summer break .

"Primary mathematics would tell you that we couldn't achieve that. There weren't enough classrooms and teachers to do that under the restrictions that we had at that time, but we had never spoken about that with the DfE at all.

"The first I heard of it was probably 15 minutes before the prime minister stood behind the podium and made the announcement.

"It was a complete surprise. I don't know to what extent it was a surprise to the secretary of state but it was certainly a surprise [to us] in the context of the talks we were having at the time.

"For me, there is a disconnect between the absolute centre of power and the departments, and that is a product of how they want to control the pandemic at the moment and it's not serving the country well and it's not serving politics well either. 

"We have to just keep pushing with those practical conversations."

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