THE PLAN for all primary school years in England to go back to school before the end of term has been dropped by the government.
Instead, schools will be given ‘flexibility’ over whether or not to admit more pupils.
The decision comes after Tory Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded at Monday’s Downing Street briefing that secondary schools in England may not fully reopen until September ‘at the earliest’.
NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: ‘Whilst the NASUWT welcomes the government’s belated decision to step back from its plans to open schools to even more pupils before the end of this academic year, we are also urging the government to act swiftly to address the concerns of teachers and headteachers struggling to maintain safe working practices in schools where provision for children has already been extended.
‘The government must now accept that its plans for wider reopening of schools are no longer credible.
‘The government must also make clear to schools that they should revisit their plans and take all appropriate steps to protect the welfare of staff and pupils even if that means pausing planned reopening or closing wider provision in the interests of safety and public health.’
Also commenting on the government’s decision not to press ahead, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union said: ‘It has taken the government some time to recognise what was obvious to most.
‘The government’s social distancing rules made it impossible for primary schools to admit all pupils before the summer holidays. Primary schools and secondary schools will not re-open to all pupils until September at the earliest. But even that date cannot, as Matt Hancock has recognised, be taken for granted.
‘The government must also plan for a second spike.
‘The scale of the challenge is immense. We need a national recovery plan for education along the lines of the job recovery plan.’
Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said: ‘GMB has been in regular talks with the Department for Education raising concerns of wider school reopening and the lack of safe systems of work.
‘As a key stakeholder which represents more than 100,000 school staff we are pleased that their safety, and that of pupils, has started to lead government policy and decisions.
‘Pupils’ education matters, so we need Ministers to continue to work with unions to build and redesign classrooms ahead of further reopening so that both staff and pupils are safe to return to the classroom.
‘GMB will continue to ensure widening of schools opening are guided by science, underpinned by real efforts to minimise risk from the virus until we either get a vaccine or the virus is eliminated.’