Teacher Covid safety advice was wrong, says Williamson

Minister thanks NEU and Unison for withdrawing 'wrong' workplace safety advice, but unions deny saying it was incorrect
6th January 2021, 4:30pm

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Teacher Covid safety advice was wrong, says Williamson

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/teacher-covid-safety-advice-was-wrong-says-williamson
Coronavirus & Schools: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson Has Thanked Two Unions For Withdrawing 'incorrect' Workplace Safety Advice

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has claimed two major education unions have admitted that they issued the wrong safety advice to school staff on Sunday.

It is understood he was referring to advice that staff had a legal right not to return to classrooms for safety reasons amid increasing Covid infection rates.

Advice from the NEU published on its website included a template letter for teachers to fill in and give to their headteachers explaining that they were refusing to go into work because their workplace was unsafe, a right stated in law by section 44 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.


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In a speech to the the House of Commons this afternoon, Mr Williamson said: "I'd like to thank both the National Education Union and Unison for recognising the fact that the action that they took and the advice that they gave their members on Sunday was incorrect and [for the fact] that they have withdrawn that advice.

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"It was the wrong advice and I'm glad that they have reflected upon it and recognised that it was the wrong advice."

The NEU said this afternoon that it had neither withdrawn the advice nor recognised it was incorrect, but that the template letter had been taken down from the website "as it is no longer relevant" following school closures yesterday.

A Unison spokesperson said: "Gavin Williamson is simply wrong. At no point has UNISON said the guidance and advice to members was incorrect, as he has stated.

"SAGE's advice to the government on the increase in infection rates and new variants, and the Prime Minister's national address on 4 January, showed the information provided to members was accurate.

"A range of advice has been removed from the union website reflecting that the world has moved on following the closure of most schools, which UNISON has been urging for weeks."

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