8 ways schools need help to survive Covid second wave

Teachers vote at the NEU conference to push for the cancellation of Sats and Ofsted inspections to help schools cope

John Roberts

Coronavirus and schools: The NEU teaching union conference today has made a series of demands on government over Covid-19

A special conference of the NEU teaching union has called for Sats, Ofsted inspections and league tables not to take place in 2020-21 to allow schools to focus on recovery from Covid-19.

It also called for improved testing for the virus and better guidance on keeping schools open and safe.

The union passed three motions today at its online conference that make a series of recommendations for government over its handling of the coronavirus crisis.  

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Here are eight key demands from teachers and leaders in the motions passed by the NEU.

1.  Improve coronavirus testing and tracing 

The NEU passed a motion which called on the government and public health authorities to "boost the effectiveness" of local test and track, and isolate, systems.

This includes a call for comprehensive sample testing in schools and colleges to establish how reopening impacts on the safety of parents, grandparents and staff, with all findings made public.

Union joint general secretary Mary Bousted said: "The NEU has been calling for a robust testing system to be in place for months. The consequences of not having one were predictable and predicted, as our survey of members shows.

"Seventy per cent of respondents said there are staff shortages in their school as a result of self-isolation and/or access to testing, with 11 per cent of leadership members describing those shortages as ‘significant’."

2. Better guidance on how to keep schools open

The union said that the government also needs to prepare more detailed contingency plans for possible local or wider school closures because of rising rates of the coronavirus.

A motion passed the NEU said the government should do this by being clear about the infection and R rate thresholds at which schools in an area should be closing or moving to restricted openings.

3. Improve guidance for allowing special schools to operate safely

The NEU conference was told by SEND teacher Jenny Cooper that the guidance given to special schools during the pandemic has been inadequate.

She proposed an amendment to a motion, which was passed, calling for the government to give detailed guidance to special schools on how to run safely when pupils need physical intervention strategies and rely on 1:1 or 1:2 staffing ratios. 

It also asked for more guidance "on how to use individual risk assessments to protect pupils with Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) and underlying health conditions with access to blended learning or remote learning where this is the only safe option for schools".

4.  Campaign to review workload and scrap performance-related pay

The conference passed a motion on pay and workload issues entitled "Winning in the workplace after Covid-19".

This called for the union to campaign secure reviews to ensure that "already excessive" workload does not increase. 

It also called on the union to continue to urge employers to ditch performance-related pay and to help secure the implementation of national pay increases across schools.

5. Create 'Nightingale' schools

The government has also been told to provide investment for additional school buildings and "Nightingale schools" to create smaller classes to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

This follows union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney calling for the government to show the same urgency it did when creating the Nightingale hospitals in order to create new classroom space.

He suggested doing this would reduce the spread of the virus and keep more children in school, rather than the DfE's plan to move to schools rotas where needed.

6. Ensure that children have computers and internet access

With the government moving to give schools a legal obligation to ensure that pupils who are absent because of Covid-19 have access to remote education, teachers have now made their own demands of the Department for Education.

A motion passed by the union includes a call to ensure that all children have computers and internet access to support their learning in the event of the need to move to "blended learning" or any future lockdowns.

7. Do not run Sats in 2021 and use moderated teacher assessments as part of GCSE and A levels 

The Department for Education has been told by union members not to run Sats next year and to replace them with moderated teacher assessment because Covid-19 disruption will make it impossible for the results to be meaningful.

The union's motion also included a call on heads not to require any preparation for Sats if the national tests do go ahead as planned. Speaking before the conference, Mr Courtney said: "If the government don't see sense, what we are saying to heads is don't play the game this year."  

The motion also calls for moderated teacher assessment to be used as part of a mixed model for both GCSEs and A levels following this year's grading fiasco.

8. Stop Ofsted inspections and league tables this year

Ofsted is currently scheduled to make a return to full inspection in January 2021 but this is being kept under review amid the disruption being caused by the coronavirus crisis.

One of the motions passed by the NEU today calls for a suspension of Ofsted inspections and performance tables for 2020-21 and the establishment of "a high-level commission into exams", drawing on research and international evidence to make proposals for a fairer, more inclusive system. 





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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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