Covid Plan B: Lack of school measures 'disappointing'

Prime minister Boris Johnson says pupils should stay in schools and nativities should go ahead amid Omicron spread
8th December 2021, 6:04pm
John Roberts

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Covid Plan B: Lack of school measures 'disappointing'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/covid-plan-b-lack-school-measures-disappointing
Covid Plan B: Lack of school measures 'disappointing'

It is disappointing that prime minister Boris Johnson made no mention of schools in his Plan B to tackle the threat posed by the Omicron variant of Covid-19, teaching and school staff unions have said.

Measures in schools did not feature as part of the additional steps introduced by Mr Johnson to tackle the rapidly growing variant tonight, and he said he wanted pupils to remain in school and nativity plays to continue.

The National Education Union has today called for a Plan B in schools to prevent disruption to education caused by Covid.

It has urged the government to reintroduce masks in secondary school classrooms and prevent children from attending school if there is a Covid case in their household unless they have had a negative PCR test.

And the NASUWT teaching union has called for stronger measures including face coverings in classrooms.

The prime minister announced tonight that work from home guidance will return, Covid health certificates will become mandatory in large venues and mask rules will be extended.

The new measures come as data shows that Omicron Covid cases are doubling every two to three days in England.

However, no additional measures to curb the spread of Covid in schools was announced.

'Disappointing' announcement 

Kevin Courtney, the NEU's joint general secretary, said: "We are disappointed that in his announcement the prime minister has made no mention of schools, given that cases are rising so fast and this is leading to so much disruption of education.

"More than 200,000 pupils were absent for Covid-related reasons on 25 November and, since then, infection rates among school-age children have risen further. 

"It is clear that current mitigations are not enough to keep at bay rising case counts, especially in the new context of the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

"The NEU put out its own Plan B for schools earlier today, and we think Boris Johnson must act now to minimise the disruption of education."

During questions at tonight's press conference, Mr Johnson was asked about whether school nativity plays should go ahead.

He said: "In my view, they should follow the guidance of course but we don't want kids to be taken out of school before the end of term - there is not very long to go now and we don't want nativities to be cancelled. We think that's okay."

Union calls for guidance  

The NEU has called for a series of measures including the reintroduction of one-way routes and staggered break times to minimise mixing between classes and year groups wherever possible. 

It also urged the government to issue guidance to all schools and colleges on the safe organisation of gatherings and meetings "including options for social distancing or virtual events".

And it said the government should encourage schools and colleges to allow staff to book vaccines and boosters during working hours without loss of pay, and launch a campaign to encourage twice-weekly testing for all staff and pupils.

Mr Courtney added: "The prime minister must act. We need a Plan B for schools and colleges now." 

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said "it would be appropriate to extend further control measures in schools" as Mr Johnson has acknowledged the Omicron variant is "significantly more transmissible".

He added: "Further measures including extending the use of face coverings in classrooms, an immediate and extended programme of onsite Covid testing of pupils, and robust rules and support for close contacts to self-isolate would have a significant impact on helping to break the chain of Covid transmission and minimise further disruption to pupils' education"

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