Britain’s second-largest teaching union says it is locked in an argument with the government over whether personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided in schools.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has been accused of ducking the question when asked it by Tes during yesterday’s press briefing at Downing Street – despite Department for Education guidance stating that it is not needed.
Appearing on LBC radio this afternoon, Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said the need for PPE in schools was one of the main issues being raised by members.
Coronavirus: Teacher protection 'a matter of urgency'
He said: “PPE needs to be provided and we’re in an argument with the government on that because the government is reluctant to accept that in some circumstances personal protective equipment is absolutely necessary.
“And in all circumstances, access to soap and water for regular handwashing is absolutely essential and yet our surveys of teachers confirm that actually many teachers are experiencing shortages”
Dr Roach has already criticised government advice suggesting teachers do not need PPE as "dodgy" and "unhelpful".
In the LBC interview, he also said the government needed to ensure schools opened with appropriate staffing levels and repeated concerns over whether social distancing could be properly practised in schools.
He refused to be drawn on whether teachers were “at greater risk in the way health professionals are”, stating: “I’m not going to engage in a bidding war about who is at greatest risk.”
Following the Downing Street briefing yesterday, when the issue of PPE for teachers was raised, former Labour press secretary Alistair Campbell was among those who took to Twitter criticising Mr Williamson’s answers to Tes’ questions. He accused him of a “full platitude and word salad in response. Because he doesn’t have the answers”.
Who is the education journalist who just asked two very good questions, about PPE for teachers and safety in schools? Important questions asked without waffle. Sadly the @GavinWilliamson has gone full platitude and word salad in response. Because he doesn’t have the answers— ALASTAIR CAMPBELL (@campbellclaret) April 19, 2020
The DfE has been contacted for comment.