School return plan ‘a gamble against scientific advice’

Union says classroom ventilation and personal protective equipment for staff need to be addressed as part of 8 March full reopenings

NEU on schools reopening

Britain’s largest teaching union says the government is still not following the science in its plan to reopen schools next month.

Following the announcement yesterday of the full reopening of schools from 8 March, the NEU has highlighted minutes from the meeting of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on 11 February, in which leading scientists recommended the phased reopening of schools, as reported yesterday by Tes.

NEU joint-general secretary Mary Bousted said: “Time and again in this pandemic, the government have not followed the science, closing schools too late and then opening them too early.

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“The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments are reopening their schools in a phased way as Sage have recommended. This is the sensible way forward for England, too. We all want to see schools and colleges open, but it must be done sustainably.

“Boris Johnson has pressed ahead with this gamble on the wider opening of schools and colleges in one swoop and ignored the advice for a phased return.”

Yesterday, a report from the Office for National Statistics showed that teachers and other education professionals have the fourth-highest risk of infection from coronavirus

Dr Bousted added: “It is incumbent now for government to ensure robust safety measures are in place in our schools and colleges. Testing and the wearing of face masks in secondary-school and college classrooms is a step forward, but we also need to see the issues of ventilation in classrooms and personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff addressed in these coming weeks.”

The Department for Education says in its blog that the consensus view from Sage continues to be that missing out on classroom-based education has severe impacts for children and young people. It says evidence from the Public Health England-led Schools Infection Survey continues to show that infection rates in schools mirror infection rates in the wider community, suggesting schools are not the main driver of infections.

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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