Teaching unions blast ‘reckless’ plan to reopen schools

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Teaching unions have united to condemn the government’s plan to reopen schools from June 1.

On Sunday, Boris Johnson announced a plan for nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children to go back to school from the start of next month.

But the plan has been met with a huge backlash.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said he will "resist" the plans, while Wirral Council leader Pat Hackett said: “I am urging all Wirral residents to continue to follow the national guidance and stay at home wherever possible.”

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Now the Wirral sections of three teaching unions, NASUWT, the NEU and Unison, have added their voices to the debate.

The three unions put out the message in protest at the government's plans

A joint statement, read: “It is not yet safe for children to return to school and protective measures are not in place.

The statement added: “The government is showing a lack of understanding about the dangers of the spread of coronavirus within schools, from schools to parents, siblings and relatives and to the wider community.

“In lifting guidance on social distancing within schools the government is experimenting with our members and also our children and communities. This is not acceptable.

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“We know this move has not been prompted by Wirral Council or local [head teachers], it is a directive from central government.

“We call for a step back from the arbitrary date of 1st June and want work to be undertaken with the unions to create the conditions for a safe return based on clear principles and tests.”

The unions will be launching a local petition and on Monday, May 18 at 5pm will host a rally on Facebook called ‘Wirral Schools – No Return Until It’s Safe’, which will be open to all staff, parents and members of the community.

Steve Bennett, schools officer for Wirral Unison, said: “Our members are passionate about their jobs, and committed to the pupils they support.

“They are rightly concerned that a return on 1 June risks their own health and the health of pupils. There should be no return unless and until it is safe to do so.”

Ian Harris, district secretary for Wirral NEU, said: “The announcement by the government that schools may reopen from June 1 with reception and years 1 and 6 is nothing short of reckless.

Boris Johnson has come under fire for his announcement on schools

“Our members care deeply about the children in their care, they want reassurances that a return to school will be safe for children, staff and the wider community.

“The government must meet our tests for the safe reopening of schools.”

Anne Rycroft, local negotiating secretary at NASUWT, said: “The NASUWT is clear that schools should not relax the restrictions on opening until it is safe to do so.

“We expect that all schools and colleges will need to be able to demonstrate that their provision is safe for staff and for children at all times.

"This will require planning, risk assessments and training for all staff in the new systems that will have to be put in place.

“The NASUWT is clear that no teacher or child should be expected to go into a school that is not safe and until it can be demonstrated that it is safe for them to do so.”