Teachers accused of blocking wider school openings

Teacher unions defend stance on school openings and online learning as they come under fire from education committee MPs

Coronavirus: How the unions are protecting teachers' interests in the crisis

A teaching union has come under fire from MPs accusing it of trying to block school openings before September.

At the meeting of the Commons Education Select Committee this morning, Tom Hunt MP told the leader of the NASUWT, Patrick Roach, that “it is a reality, sadly, that many people feel some of the teaching unions have actively obstructed the reopening of schools ahead of September”.

He reminded Dr Roach of a newspaper quote from May in which the union leader had said the government should “rule out” any phased reopening of schools ahead of September “in view of public health challenges and the considerable task that would be required to ensure that every school is ready to admit increased numbers of children and adults into safe learning”.

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Mr Hunt added: “You expect us to believe you have been positive and proactive and constructive in doing everything you can to get as many pupils as possible back to school ahead of September.”

But Dr Roach said he stood by the quote which was about ending speculation around schools reopening.

He said: “There was a huge amount of speculation which was creating unprecedented levels of anxiety, not just among the school workforce but among wider communities as well, but we’re certainly not about blocking reopening.”

Mr Hunt also accused unions of discouraging online learning.

Mary Bousted, joint-general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said the union was never against online learning but that it had guided its members about the use of online Zoom lessons, which reports had said were “not secure and posed safeguarding issues”.

She said: “In terms of online learning, we issued guidance to our members about how to do that safely, so we have have been completely misrepresented there.”

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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