THE TUC on Friday published a joint statement that was sent yesterday evening to the Secretary of State for Education, on behalf of unions with members in the education sector, outlining the measures needed for the safe reopening of schools.
The statement from GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, Unison and Unite sets out key principles and tests for the reopening of schools in England to ensure the safety of children, parents, staff and the communities they serve.
The principles and tests include:
- Safety and welfare of pupils and staff as the paramount principle
- No increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a national test and trace scheme
- A national Covid-19 education taskforce with government, unions and education stakeholders to agree statutory guidance for safe reopening of schools
- Consideration of the specific needs of vulnerable students and families facing economic disadvantage
- Additional resources for enhanced school cleaning, PPE and risk assessments
- Local autonomy to close schools where testing indicates clusters of new Covid-19 cases.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘Parents and staff need full confidence that schools will be safe before any pupils return.
‘The government must work closely with unions to agree a plan that meets the tests we have set out. Those discussions must include unions representing all school workers, not just teachers.
‘The best way to do this is through a national taskforce for safe schools, with government, unions and education stakeholders. Schools must also get extra funds from government to pay for essential safety measures like PPE and additional cleaning.’
Speaking about the TUC’s joint statement for the safe reopening of schools, Unite national officer Jim Kennedy said: ‘As the Prime Minister moves impatiently to a premature easing of the lockdown, it is essential we have in place the safeguards that protect our workers and communities.
‘The public support for our essential workers across the public sector has shown that they will not accept another botched process. Boris Johnson has been exposed for his, and the government’s, catastrophic handling of this crisis and I am sure we are all fed up to the back teeth with his jingoistic language as some sort of elixir to the daily tragedies our communities are suffering.
‘Our school support staff, teachers, pupils, parents and relatives are rightly concerned and alarmed at the thought of a hasty programme to reopen our schools, therefore the school support staff unions including Unite, teaching unions and the TUC have set out the key principles and tests that must be met before that can happen.
‘We know what a fantastic job our teachers and support staff have done in caring for and educating the pupils of our essential workers. They have done so at great risk to themselves and their families. We must now ensure that the key tests contained within the trade union joint statement are fully applied. Nothing less is acceptable.
‘Just a few short days ago we marked International Workers Memorial Day where we stated that we will remember the dead and fight for the living. Unite is committed to fulfilling that pledge.’