1 in 7 schools asks vulnerable teachers to come to work

Around 20% of schools are asking teachers to come to work this week despite living with a vulnerable person, poll shows

Coronavirus: Teachers who are vulnerable to coronavirus are being asked to return to work after schools reopened this week, warns the NEU teaching union

Vulnerable teachers at higher risk from cononavirus have expressed their concerns about being asked to return to work in schools this week.

A survey of almost 11,000 schools carried out by the NEU teaching union reveals that 15 per cent could be asking staff who are clinically vulnerable to return to work.

And around 20 per cent could be asking staff to come to work despite them living with someone who is clinically vulnerable.

School openings: 'A tough day' - teachers' experiences of 1 June return

Coronavirus: Schools face DfE demand for twice-daily absence data

Research: Covid-19 may cost a decade’s progress on attainment gap

One respondent told the survey: “My employer has shown no consideration for my situation and the position she has put me in – I’m considering leaving my job because of the stress it has caused myself and my family.”

Coronavirus: At-risk teachers asked to return to school

Another said: “Everyone is expected at work unless they have a government letter or are ill with Covid-19, or it would go down as a sickness absence.”

Another said: “We have all been ‘rated’ by our head (who has limited medical knowledge!) and are being brought in when needed. The hope is that extremely clinically vulnerable won’t be needed but plenty of clinically vulnerable are already needed due to size of school.”

The survey, of 23,045 union members in almost 11,000 primary and nursery schools, reveals that while the majority of schools are “behaving sensitively”, around 1 per cent are asking staff who are “clinically extremely vulnerable” to return to work, and 4 per cent are asking staff who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable to return.

The NEU said it was actively supporting hundreds of vulnerable members who are being asked to return to work where social distancing is not possible and personal protective equipment is not provided.

The survey also reveals that 44 per cent of schools did not open more widely on 1 June.

NEU joint-general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “The NEU and many prominent scientists, including Independent Sage, believe it would have been safer for all schools to begin the move to a wider opening in a couple of weeks from now, when the number of new cases per day should be lower and the system of testing, tracking and isolation of new cases is bedded in.

“It is clear from our latest survey that many schools intend to delay wider opening. Some are not extending their opening beyond key workers and vulnerable children this term. Many have delayed wider opening until later in June. Others will be opening for some but not all the age groups recommended by government. All this will make our communities safer.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “From this week, many schools have begun welcoming children from Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back to the classroom as part of a phased and cautious approach. 

“To prepare for this, headteachers and school staff have been doing an excellent job including putting protective measures in place and engaging with parents and children. We will continue to support schools who haven’t yet been able to open more widely to do so as soon as possible.”


Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

Latest stories

Here is how to ensure effective safeguarding mechanisms

Safeguarding: 5 golden principles for leaders

The need for colleges and schools to have effective safeguarding practices has never been more apparent. This lawyer has some advice on what to look out for
Sophie Kemp 11 May 2021