The NEU’s stance has always been that we want schools to be open safely and sustainably. Schools are the best places for children and young people. But we regard a full return on 8 March as a reckless action that risks throwing away progress made during the lockdown and prolonging the disruption of education.
On Monday, we sent a member survey on wider reopening and 44,000 of you responded in less than 12 hours. It confirmed that you support your union’s position, whatever phase or sector you work in.
We will continue to argue that a phased school return, as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is the right approach. We want school leaders to make professional judgments, based on their schools, on the pattern of return for pupils. We believe a staggered return will allow some of our children far greater room, and opportunity, to use the playground as well as greater space indoors.
We have updated our guidance on safety measures needed in school – on mixing and distancing, testing, face coverings ventilation and other issues – with minimum standards which must be applied in all schools and colleges as well as advice on accessing union support.
We have also updated guidance for those in the shielding category, who must not attend work by law and for other medically vulnerable and older staff who should be allowed to work at home at least until their first vaccination has taken effect.
We have emailed all head teachers and principals asking them to use their professional judgment to ensure the safest possible return and we are asking you, our workplace reps to take the following steps:
- Arrange a meeting of members to discuss the return before 8 March.
- Use the updated guidance above to discuss members safety concerns and agree the type of phased return that you think will work in your school.
- Use our model letter to write to your leadership team with the views of members.
- Report back to members what your leadership team has said, discuss together any further steps you want to take.
- If your workplace group needs help escalating any concerns or support, contact your branch secretary by clicking here.
We will also:
- Press for all education workers to be at the top of phase 2 of the vaccination schedule, alongside other front line key workers, delivering the jab to those under 50 not included in phase 1.
- Promote our Covid map which shows local case rates around schools and engage with public health officials and local authorities to press for phasing, circuit breaks and mitigations if cases rise. Click here to view our Covid map.
- Promote our Education Recovery Plan with its proposals for safety, education recovery and tackling poverty and equality. Click here to add your support for the plan.