23rd Oct, 2020

Union chiefs say school re-opening 'risks second spike’

Rob George 27th May, 2020

EDUCATION union chiefs across Worcestershire have branded the decision to re-open schools as unsafe and branded the government’s decision to push ahead with the wider reopening programme as reckless.

Speaking ahead of the proposed phased re-opening of schools from Monday (June 1), the National Education Union (NEU) said opening schools to more than just the children of key workers and vulnerable children risked a second spike in Coronavirus cases.

Union bosses said they were desperate to see schools reopened as soon as it is safe and said they knew better than most how the quality of children’s education suffers when they are not in school.

But equally, NEU bosses said parents would agree provision at schools should not be expanded in exchange for increasing the risk to children, staff and communities of a greater exposure to coronavirus.

Stephen Metters, district secretary of the Worcestershire NEU said: “The risk the Coronavirus infection from the community finds its way into schools is still too high. When Denmark reopened schools a month ago it had 95 deaths per one million of the population. The UK has 513 deaths per 1 million of the population.

If one compares the UK with other countries we are closer to Spain and Italy in terms of the number of deaths, the number of cases and the rates of infection. Those countries are not reopening their schools more widely until September.

Union chiefs said there would not be an established, effective test and trace system for COVID-19 in place by Monday and said reopening more widely on June 1 risked creating a ‘hotbed for infection’ in our schools and a second spike.

Sean McCauley, joint secretary of the State Education Branch of Worcestershire NEU said, “The government has not met two of its own tests. The rate of infection has not yet decreased to manageable levels and the level of testing needed to support a wider reopening is not in place.

“They have failed to meet our five reasonable tests to determine how safe a wider reopening of schools would be. Forcing those who are living with vulnerable people into a workplace where there is an increased risk of infection is unacceptable. Failure to put in place an established test and trace system is criminal. The absence of any plan to close schools in

“Many schools have ditched plans to open fully to the identified year groups; some are reopening only for Year 6, some on June 8, some on June 15. Those ploughing ahead for next week should avoid a chaotic reopening and put it on hold until the science says it is safe to reopen more widely,” he added.

The National Education Union in Worcestershire is holding a meeting of all its 4,000 members via Zoom today (Wednesday).

E-mail sean.mccauley@neu.org.uk for more.

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