Education Update – Coronavirus

UNISON has agreed a further joint statement from the TUC education unions. Together we are calling on the government to hold off on increasing the number of pupils in schools and nurseries in England on 1 June. We all agree we need a joint plan with the government for a safe increase in pupil numbers.

UNISON is a member-led union, and our national schools committee is made up of members like you who work in schools. They meet tomorrow to decide on our next steps – including what to do if the government drives ahead with its plans.

We are urgently working on materials for members that will help provide a framework for protecting staff and discussions about health and safety at your school. In the meantime, if senior leadership insists that you engage with planning for 1 June opening, then make it clear that you and your union have serious concerns about the health and safety of staff and pupils, and don’t believe opening from 1 June can be safe.

Wednesday 13th May 2020

Education unions’ statement on the safe reopening of schools 

Unions with members in the education sector are today (Wednesday) publishing a joint statement on the safe reopening of schools.

Today’s statement follows a longer statement to the Secretary of State on Friday (8 May), which set out in full detail the principles and tests necessary for the safe reopening of schools. It is signed by AEP, GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, NSEAD, Prospect, UNISON and Unite.

Full text of today’s statement:

“We all want schools to re-open, but that should only happen when it is safe to do so. The government is showing a lack of understanding about the dangers of the spread of coronavirus within schools, and outwards from schools to parents, sibling and relatives, and to the wider community.

“Uniquely, it appears, school staff will not be protected by social distancing rules. 15 children in a class, combined with their very young age, means that classrooms of 4 and 5-year olds could become sources of Covid-19 transmission and spread.  While we know that children generally have mild symptoms, we do not know enough about whether they can transmit the disease to adults. We do not think that the government should be posing this level of risk to our society.

“We call on the government to step back from the 1st June and work with us to create the conditions for a safe return to schools based on the principles and tests we have set out.”

The principles and tests include(see full statement from Friday 8 May, linked to below):

  • Safety and welfare of pupils and staff as the paramount principle
  • No increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a national test and trace scheme
  • A national Covid-19 education taskforce with government, unions and education stakeholders to agree statutory guidance for safe reopening of schools
  • Consideration of the specific needs of vulnerable students and families facing economic disadvantage
  • Additional resources for enhanced school cleaning, PPE and risk assessments
  • Local autonomy to close schools where testing indicates clusters of new covid-19 cases

Notes to editors:
– Statement to the Secretary of State for Education on 8 May:The full statement setting out the principles and tests can be found here:
– About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

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