DfE summons unions to school re-opening safety talks

Key players in education sector to meet with DfE over PPE, testing and social distancing

Amy Gibbons

PPE in schools

The UK's major teaching unions will tomorrow attend a government planning meeting to discuss the safest way to ease the school shutdown as plans for re-opening are finalised for publication next week.

Tes understands that the talks are the second in a series of weekly meetings involving the Department for Education (DfE) and key players in the sector, to discuss the logistics of opening schools and questions surrounding health and safety that must be considered before pupils return.

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Representatives from unions including the NEU teaching union and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) will raise crucial questions about the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing in schools, and give "detailed evidence" to the DfE that they believe it should consider when drawing up future plans.

Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, said he does not expect any decisions to be made tomorrow  but "we are going to get into the detail".

He told Tes: "They have a weekly planning meeting with the unions which is tomorrow, which is talking about the logistics of opening but also the health questions that would need to be reassuringly answered before that.

"We've had one of those so far, and we've all been asked to get from our members: 'What are the issues you're going to deal with?'

"We're going to get into the detail. Some of it is medical questions around: 'Do we need PPE; what does social distancing mean?' and some of this is in a logistical and educational sense: 'How will we know what stage children are at; what testing will we need and when; what support for vulnerable young people..?'".

Mary Bousted, NEU joint general secretary, added: "We are giving detailed evidence to the DfE about what would need to be included in any considerations about returning to school. We've got a meeting tomorrow.

"That's really on the process of thinking about the return to school."

Earlier today, an expert in infectious diseases said it will be "important" to reach a "vastly increased" testing capacity by the time children return to school.

Professor Peter Drobac, from the University of Oxford, said we have "every reason to believe that children can infect others", even if they are asympomatic, and should "take that seriously".

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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