Explain to us why teachers don't need PPE, say heads

Largest school leaders' union also reveals it wasn't consulted on government's school reopening announcement

Catherine Lough


The leader of the UK's largest school leaders' union has said that teachers will only accept that there is no need for them to have personal protective equipment (PPE) if they are given a "credible" explanation.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, also said that the government had not consulted the union on its plan for some primary year groups could return to school from as early as 1 June.

DfE: Teachers to go in without PPE or social distancing

News: Reception, Y1 and Y6 may return to school from 1 June

Related: Teacher safety debate needed, says Chris Whitty

News: All primary pupils to be back in school before summer

Speaking at a Commons Education Select Committee hearing on the effect the virus outbreak has had on vulnerable children, Mr Whiteman said: "In mainstream schools, there isn’t any PPE – any teachers who are wearing PPE have taken it for themselves and are doing it on their best estimate of what is necessary going forward, and one of the things we keep asking government to do is, if they’re convinced that PPE isn’t necessary, explain why it’s necessary for intimate contact everywhere else.

"If there’s a credible explanation for why it’s not necessary then I’m sure the teaching profession will accept it." 

Guidance published yesterday on schools reopening said that the "majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of two metres from others".

On the government's announcement that pupils in Reception classes and Years 1 and 6 could return to school from 1 June, Mr Whiteman said: "We have been engaged with the department on a regular basis over the past few weeks to talk about the worries and the barriers but specifically over the date and the year groups that were suggested in the last 24-48 hours then no, we haven’t been consulted on that specifically, but as I say, there have been much more general conversations on an ongoing basis."

Yesterday, the government also announced that it hoped all primary pupils could return for at least one month before the summer, while chief medical officer Chris Whitty said there needed to be a "proper debate" about teachers' safety.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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