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Responding to the announcement by the Prime Minister that all pupils are to return to schools and colleges from March 8, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:

“The Prime Minister has stated that it is his priority to get all pupils back to school and college. However, re-opening schools and colleges fully on 8 March is one thing; keeping them open and preventing the need for further national restrictions is quite another.

“The Government’s failure to demonstrate that it has taken full account of the scientific evidence to support its decision on full reopening risks undermining the confidence of the public and those working in schools and colleges.

“It is vital that the Government recognises that it has already lost the trust of many teachers and needs to do much more to win the confidence of a profession that has continued, throughout the pandemic, to deliver everything that has been asked of them.

“Although the rollout of the vaccination programme is going well, it is hugely regrettable and frustrating that the Government has continued to refuse to prioritise education staff in the vaccination programme. Vaccinating education staff would send a clear message that the Government is taking seriously the concerns of the profession and demonstrating a genuine commitment to limiting the risk of further disruption to children’s education.

“Vaccinating education staff can be done now if there is the political will to do so. There is simply no excuse and no reason to not do so.

“We have long argued for a competent system of test, trace and isolate. However, the decision to provide mass testing for secondary age pupils whilst not doing so for pupils of primary age will not help to win confidence. The Government has the means to move immediately to extending testing to primary school pupils and their families and they should commit to doing so as a priority.

“We will be examining carefully the Government’s latest guidance for schools and colleges. With new and more transmissible Covid variants identified, the Government has to recognise the need for stronger workplace mitigations and control measures which are mandatory and backed up by effective enforcement and inspection. This would play a key role in winning the trust and confidence of many parents and the workforce in schools and colleges.

“Effective ventilation monitoring and ensuring that classrooms are not overcrowded is vital if schools and colleges are to ensure that they are safe for pupils and staff.

“Whilst it is vital that the Government monitors the impact of fully opening schools and the effect on community transmissions, they must also review the number of education staff and pupils who contract the virus and publish the evidence.

“The Government has made a further U-turn over the mandatory use of face masks in secondary schools. However, we remain concerned that no such additional safety mitigations are currently proposed for those staff working in primary and special school settings.

“The NASUWT will be reminding all school and college employers that, irrespective of the Government’s guidance, the responsibility for safety in law rests with them and the Union will not hesitate to take action where any school or college employer deploys members when it is in breach of its statutory duties and obligations.

“Where schools are in breach of the Government’s guidance or their legal health and safety and equalities duties, it also essential that robust action is taken, including prosecutions where necessary.

“The NASUWT will be continuing to press the Government to demonstrate that plans for reopening of schools and colleges will not compromise the safety of teachers, staff or pupils.”


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