|The NEU has today launched a new Education Recovery Plan to lead the country out of lockdown in a way that is safe and sustainable for schools and colleges.
The union’s original recovery plan, sent to the government in June 2020, was a constructive and comprehensive roadmap out of the first national lockdown. It set out practical steps for fully reopening schools and colleges, but was ignored by ministers.
The union says whole year-group bubbles led to high numbers of pupil absences, as did too little space, inadequate PPE, no meaningful social distancing, and a lack of ventilation. ONS data has shown that school-age children as a group had the fastest rate of growth in Covid cases throughout the autumn term. It says it was a direct result of government negligence on school safety.
A statement from the NEU said: “Government has not, up to this point, made schools and colleges Covid-secure – and there was no hint of any further measures in yesterday’s announcement by Boris Johnson. Our plan, if adopted, would make the difference.
“Our education recovery plan is split into three parts.
“The first focuses on the challenge of educating students safely, by creating safer educational workplaces and continuing remote learning where necessary. It includes recommendations on social distancing, face coverings, vaccines and ventilation, rotas and remote education.
“The second part of the plan contains proposals to build a better education system as we emerge from the pandemic.
“The third section of the plan is a call to fight child poverty and to build a better world, post-Covid, for all our children and young people.
NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “We all want schools and colleges to be fully open again, but this needs to be properly planned with measures in place to address the problems already encountered and to ensure a safe and sustained return. Plans also need to be in place for remote learning.
“That is why we are launching our education recovery plan, which sets out a substantial strategy for schools and colleges to emerge from lockdown in a way that is safe and sustainable.
“Unions, school leaders, teachers and staff are tired of last-minute guidance and u-turns. Families, also, have been stung once too often by false hope.
“Government must now initiate structured talks with education unions, based upon all available evidence, about how a phased return is best managed, irrespective of whether that is 8 March or not. School leaders can then begin making arrangements, confident that their time is not being wasted and that there is real potential for long-term solutions. The NEU would enter such talks with a determination to make our recovery plan a reality, benefiting staff and pupils alike.
“Simply declaring schools and colleges Covid-secure does not make them so. With a death toll of 100,000 a stark reminder of the seriousness of our situation, and with no clear way out of lockdown, it is incumbent on Boris Johnson to finally change tack. We offer this updated plan to the Prime Minister in the spirit in which the first was intended – to secure a safe and uninterrupted return to education for all.”