The teaching profession has done an “amazing job” during the coronavirus crisis and continues to do but it cannot deliver the education recovery for children alone.
NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said the government had to “step up” and come up with a plan to ensure that all schools can reopen fully and so that teachers can educate children in safety.
Speaking in an online debate at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival, Dr Roach praised the efforts of teachers, headteachers and support staff during the crisis.
He said: “It has been a challenging few months as our schools have been closed.
“Because of Government failure to plan for a virus that the world saw coming, teachers had to step up and put in place creative solutions to support children.
“And, teachers, headteachers and support staff have done an amazing job throughout this crisis.
“And, they will continue to do so. It’s what teachers do. They deserve praise, not criticism.
“But, teachers alone cannot deliver the education recovery that our children need. We also need Government to step up.”
Dr Roach warned that ahead of September reopening, without a proper plan and resources children’s education was at risk “next term, next year and beyond.”
“Anyone can see that you can’t just snap your fingers and reopen schools in the middle of a pandemic. You need a plan that is backed up with the additional resources that schools will need.
“And you need a government that will put itself on the line and explain to parents and the public how it will ensure that children and staff are kept safe.”
Dr Roach said children had lost out on opportunity during the pandemic.
He added: “They have missed out educationally. They have lost out socially and physically. And, emotionally, too, our children have endured anxiety, pain and yet more loss.”
But the the answer to securing recovery for children was not to “threaten their parents with penalty fines if their children are not back in school on 1st September.”
Instead, he called for a plan to win the trust and confidence of parents and carers.
Children would need much more than catch-up tuition to help them out of the crisis:
“We also need a plan that recognises that the emotional wellbeing of children is key to enabling all children to reconnect with education.
“Not to be put under pressure of yet more tests designed to feed a divisive and regressive system of league tables.
“And we don’t need a plan which subjects schools to an unfair, high-stakes system of accountability and that scapegoats teachers who are working tirelessly to support those children who have been hardest hit during the pandemic.
“We need a plan that recognises that our children are living through a triple crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, a deep economic crisis and institutional and systemic racism as attested by disproportionate impact of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the continued impact of institutional racism and racial injustice.”
Dr Roach called for action on poverty and “action not apologies” for investing in schools which serve children and young people in the most disadvantaged areas of the country.
He added: “For the sake of the class of Covid-19, we need a national plan for education recovery.
“A new deal for children and young people.
“If we are serious in applauding the efforts of teachers who play such a vital role in our children’s futures, we also need a new deal for teachers, too – a deal to end real-terms pay cuts and to deliver a pay award for all teachers this summer which can help to restore teacher morale and halt the crisis in teacher retention.
“Because, now is the time for bold measures to benefit not only today’s children but also the generations to come.”