A schools’ union boss has accused the government of being ‘irresponsible’ to suggest some primary school children could return to classrooms from June 1.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, told
In an address last night, the prime minister said pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 would be the first to go back to classrooms as part of a staged process.
Nurseries would also be included in the initial phase and the hope is that all primary school children would return to classrooms by the summer.
‘At the earliest by June 1, after half term, we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages,’ he said.
Mr Johnson added these were the ‘first careful steps’ and the timeline for reopening schools could be delayed if necessary.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said Boris Johnson’s plan to begin a phased return to schools from next month ‘at the earliest’ is ‘reckless’
NEU boss Mr Courtney criticised these proposals this morning, asking how teachers could possibly adhere to social distancing measures in classes of 30 or more pupils.
He added that the union has set ‘five sensible tests’ they believe ‘need to be in place’ in order for schools to reopen, including a low case count and plans for social distancing in schools.
‘We want lockdown to end, we want that to happen as soon as it safely can and we are not being irresponsible,’ he said. ‘We’ve said the case count in the country needs to be down low enough so that contact tracing can take over some of the work of social isolation but the case count is nowhere near those sorts of levels.
‘We’ve said our second test is they need to have a plan for social distancing in schools – they’ve come up with nothing on that. This suggestion that reception, Year 1 and [Year 6] go back in 700 schools in the country, the infant schools, that’s the big majority of children in those schools.
‘How can you possibly do social distancing when the majority of children in classes of 30 or more are back in the school, it makes no sense.’
Mr Courtney added that testing should be available for both students and teachers, alongside plans for what schools should do if a pupil or faculty member falls ill with coronavirus.
The PM (pictured on Sunday night) said pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will be the first to go back from the start of the month during the staged process
Nurseries would also be covered in the initial phase and the hope is that all primary school children would return to classrooms by the summer
‘We’ve said they need a plan for if there’s a case in the school, what do you then do?’ he added. ‘Do you close the whole class down? Do you close the whole school down?
‘We’ve been given no science on that. How can we be planning now when they haven’t given us any of those things.’
The NEU general secretary added the union had surveyed their members following the PM’s address last night, and within an hour 49,000 teachers had responded with the ‘vast, vast majority of them saying they think it is unsafe’ to return to schools in June.
‘It’s reckless, it’s irresponsible. Mary [Bousted] and I wrote to the government on May 1 asking them to talk with us before making any announcement, to get the science out there where people can see it, peer reviewed, about whether this would be safe or not,’ he said.
‘They’ve just ignored that. They’ve ignored three letters that we’ve sent them about the science. We’ve published a report about those questions recently. They made this announcement last night with no consultation with heads or with teachers before making the announcement, it’s caused great consternation.’
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: ‘We think that the announcement by the Government that schools may reopen from June 1 with reception and years one and six is nothing short of reckless’
Secondary school students who have exams next year will likely be given time with teachers before the summer holidays but most will not be back until September
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, last night slammed Mr Johnson’s proposal as ‘nothing short of reckless.’
She said: ‘In China, children stand outside the school gates and are sprayed front and back with disinfectant, their shoes are sprayed, they wash their hands with sanitiser, they must take off their mask and replace it with a new one, and their temperature is taken remotely.’
She told The Times similar measures should be introduced in Britain, adding: ‘They’re doing that in South Korea and they have a minuscule number of new cases.’
Mr Johnson’s plans would see children in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 return to schools from June 1 as part of a staged process.
Secondary school students who have exams next year will likely be given time with teachers before the summer holidays but most will not be back until September.
‘If we can’t do it by those dates, and if the alert level won’t allow it, we will simply wait and go on until we have got it right,’ Mr Johnson said. ‘If there are problems we will not hesitate to put on the brakes.’
The PM gave five phases of a ‘Covid alert level’ that will be primarily influenced by the rate of transmission, or R, which he said is between 0.5 and 0.9
The plans sparked alarm across Britain, with more than 300,000 parents signing a petition to allow them to keep their children at home if schools begin to reopen next month.
The petition, launched on Change.org within minutes of Mr Johnson’s announcement, was created by Lucy Browne, who told other parents she fears for her daughter’s safety.
‘I’m calling on the UK Government to give parents and guardians the option of not sending their children back to school if they reopen in June, as Boris Johnson has suggested could happen in England,’ she said.
When will students return to school in PM’s proposal?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night outlined when children could expect to return to schools across Britain.
Primary school students in Year 1, Year 6 and reception could see a return to classrooms from June 1 ‘at the earliest.’
Nurseries would also be covered in the initial phase and the hope is that all primary school children would return to classrooms by the summer.
Secondary school students who have exams next year will likely be given time with teachers before the summer holidays but most will not be back in classrooms until September.
‘As a mum I don’t want to face serious repercussions for making a choice I feel affects the safety of my daughter during a global pandemic’.
She added: ‘The UK now has the highest death toll in Europe and second highest in the world.
‘Many of us have lost confidence in the Government’s handling of this crisis and feel it is too early to return children to schools.
‘It seems it could post risks not only to children but also teachers and those they live with – grandparents, parents and those (with) underlying health conditions’.
Ms Browne claimed ministers had provided little reassurance about measures that might be taken to protect people and manage the risks of a return to school.
‘Even drop-off and collection could increase risk of transmission among parents. We need the Government to be transparent with us and put things in place before we can consider placing our trust in this decision.
‘Parents should have a choice on whether or not they put their children in this scenario’.
One signatory to the petition said she would ‘rather lose my job and my house than my child’.
Another wrote: ‘Open up Parliament first. Our children are not testing tools for anyone!’