Former ministers call for teachers to work over summer

Retired and supply teachers could be asked to stand in for staff who are shielding in September, plans suggest

Tes Reporter

Coronavirus: Teachers should work over the summer to prepare for the full reopening of schools, say former education ministers

Teachers should cut their summer holidays short to prepare for a full reopening of schools in September, according to plans reportedly backed by four former education ministers.

Reports suggest that Lord Adonis, a former Labour schools minister, is calling for planning reminiscent of the Second World War to bring about a "complete return to schools" in the autumn.

He is backed by former Labour education secretaries Alan Johnson and Lord Blunkett, and ex-Tory education secretary Lord Baker, according to The Sunday Times.

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The newspaper reports that the former ministers are calling for teachers to return to work in August, as part of plans which also state the government should confirm social distancing rules and appoint a national director of school operations to manage reopenings.

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There are calls for retired and supply teachers to cover for shielding staff, church halls and portable cabins to be used to boost school space, and hand sanitiser, thermometers and face masks to be stocked by schools, the report adds.

Lord Adonis told The Sunday Times: "I see no reason why we cannot have a complete return of schools in September subject to proper organisation and leadership by the government.

"We did this kind of planning in the Second World War; we should be able to do it in 2020."

And Lord Blunkett told the newspaper that teachers "could, in all fairness to their colleagues, give up some of their time this summer" to deal with the "national emergency".

The news comes just two days after Tes asked education secretary Gavin Williamson if he wanted teachers to work during the summer to help their pupils catch up.

Mr Williamson responded at Friday's coronavirus briefing: "We've already set out – and there's some brilliant work by the Education Endowment Foundation about how teachers and schools can support their pupils. One of those packages that we're putting out – we're putting a billion pounds behind this catch-up plan, Covid catch-up plan. So it's a big investment of an awful lot of money.

"One of those schemes is to have children coming back during the summer into schools. 

"But we recognise it's really important for the schools to be able to tailor their plan for their children to make sure it delivers the maximum impact, so those children catch up and really succeed."

The Sunday Times had reported that Lord Adonis' plans were backed by Liberal Democrat David Laws, who served as schools minister in the coalition government.

But Mr Laws said: "I back the plan for schools to reopen fully in September if this is supported by the latest health guidance, but I do not think it is necessary for teachers to go back early in August."

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