Rebecca Long-Bailey has written to the education secretary calling for action to be taken to protect teachers and other school staff from the coronavirus.
Labour’s new shadow education secretary’s letter to Gavin Williamson asks: “What steps is your Department taking to ensure that all staff working in schools… can be tested for coronavirus, and that those who need it have access to PPE?”
Department for Education guidance published on Tuesday says that school staff do not need personal protective equipment (PPE), even if working with children who "may be unable to follow social distancing guidelines".
Coronavirus: PPE 'not needed' in schools, says DfE
Union warning: Teachers 'pressured' into working Easter
Ms Long-Bailey, who was appointed to the education brief on Monday also calls on the DfE to "urgently" clarify whether "schools are required to remain open over Easter, or if this will be optional".
Mr Williamson's original parliamentary statement on school closures on 18 March said: "Where possible, we would encourage settings [schools] to also look after key workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays."
One teaching union said this week that its members were being "pressured" into working over the Easter break.
Ms Long-Bailey continues, saying there are still "significant and important unanswered questions" about GCSE and A-level grading.
She has asked for the timetable for consulting on and implementing the appeals system and asks: "Can you confirm that the appeals system will operate to such a timeline that students who rely on it do not have to defer the next stage of their education by a full year?"
The Labour shadow wants Mr Williamson to "commit to putting a temporary halt to all ongoing academisations, restructures, reorganisations for the duration of the crisis" so that schools can focus on providing care to children.
She announced her lengthy list on Twitter at around 5pm just before the Easter weekend with an emoji wink saying that it should keep Mr Williamson "busy for a few days".
It also includes asking:
- For confirmation that all supply teachers are covered by the Job Retention Scheme, including those employed by agencies and umbrella companies.
- Whether the Reception baseline assessment and early years teaching framework reforms will be delayed by at least a year.
- What steps the DfE is taking to ensure all pupils can access remote learning.
- How school re-openings will be managed and whether teaching unions will be consulted.
But one teaching union – the Association of School and College Leaders – has already come to the DfE's defence, saying that it had been working "extraordinarily hard" and had taken a "collaborative" approach.
For the record, @GavinWilliamson and @educationgovuk team are working extraordinarily hard on issues such as these. Feels to me that their approach is collaborative with the education sector. These unprecedented times require a generosity of spirit. And that’s what I’m seeing.— Geoff Barton (@RealGeoffBarton) April 9, 2020
The DfE has been contacted for comment.