Teachers union tries to sabotage school reopening plan with ‘impossible’ list of 200 safety demands
- National Education Union has provided its half a million members with ‘checklist’
- If these demands are not met, the union urges staff to ‘escalate’ their quarrel
- Robert Halfon MP accused the union of ‘nitpicking’ and overlooking the children
Teacher union bosses have been accused of trying to throttle government plans to reopen schools next month with a 200-long list of safety demands.
The National Education Union has provided its half a million members with a ‘checklist’ of Covid-secure measures which its institution should be enforcing.
If these demands are not met, and concerns are not acted upon, the union urges staff to ‘escalate’ their quarrel.
But MPs last night ripped into the 25-page ‘wrecker’s charter’ which they said could thwart the Prime Minister’s ‘national priority’ for classes to resume.
MPs last night branded the 24-page document a ‘wrecker’s charter’ which could thwart the PM’s ‘national priority’ for classes to resume (pictured at The Discovery School in July)
Today NEU president Amanda Martin said she believed the union had been ‘on the right side of history’ and stood by the checklist. Education select committee chair Robert Halfon MP branded the criteria ‘impossible’
Education select committee chair Robert Halfon MP branded the criteria ‘impossible’ and told the Sun on Sunday: ‘It is incredible not one of these 200 nitpicking questions asks the most important thing of all – what’s best for the kids?’
The demands, which the NEU claim to have adopted from Department for Education guidance, include questions such as: ‘Will lidded bins with double bagging be available in every classroom and work area?’
Another asks: ‘Has the school agreed that any staff required to quarantine in September as a result of holidays booked prior to the Government’s quarantine announcement will be able to work at home or be allowed paid leave of absence?’
The unions were blamed for blocking ministers’ initial efforts to reopen schools before the summer holidays after expressing deep safety concerns.
The National Education Union has provided its half a million members with a ‘checklist’ of Covid-secure measures which its institution should be enforcing
But today NEU president Amanda Martin said she believed the union had been ‘on the right side of history’ and stood by the checklist.
She told Times Radio: ‘This is people’s safety. What costs safety? I as someone who works in Portsmouth and received the information from my Portsmouth school have had those checklists back where governors and heads and staff have worked together.
‘It’s about ensuring confidence, it’s about ensuring safety and if that means that’s going through those 25 pages and have conversations about ‘what would happen if this happened?’, then that’s exactly what we need to do and plan, planning is essential.’
Quizzed about whether the NEU is given teachers the green light to go back to lessons next month, Ms Martin added: ‘We have said that schools should be ready to open in September.
‘We have a number of meetings in the last week of August, we have asked our reps to look at the brand-new checklist that came out right at the end of summer term and we need to see what it means in regards to the scientists.
‘We have asked the scientists to give us some modelling so we can make sure schools can be as Covid safe as possible.’
Minister rejects Children’s Commissioner’s calls for regular testing in schools
The government’s schools minister has slapped down calls from England’s Children’s Commissioner to introduce routine testing when schools reopen in September.
Nick Gibb today said students and staff would only be tested if they displayed symptoms.
But Anne Longfield earlier called for checks to become ‘part and parcel’ of school life and suggested they should be done weekly.
She told Times Radio: ‘I think it needs to be as regular as it needs to be for the infection to be caught… certainly not one-offs but regular occurrences so they’re part and parcel of the running of a school.’
But speaking on the same programme, Mr Gibb later said: ‘Anybody who shows symptoms in schools will be tested, not routine testing, the advice we have is it’s better when people show symptoms.
‘If they test positive the people that pupil has been in contact with will be self-isolating.
Everything we do is led by the science, the priority for the new 90-minute tests has to be the new hospitals and laboratories, the measures we are putting in place, the hierarchy of controls is the most effective measures of the virus.’
She added: ‘The fact that the government are coming out this morning saying we’re a national priority is a really positive thing’.
Schools minister Nick Gibb today said he had been consulting with the unions, although said they did not always agree.
In the checklist’s preamble, the document states: ‘Union reps should seek meetings with school leaders in order to discuss plans for full opening.
‘School leaders’ difficult responsibility will be assisted by comprehensive union input. Consultation must start as soon as possible and allow for improvements to be made to those plans.
‘If unfortunately there is a either a failure to consult, or members’ concerns are not being addressed, then this should be escalated.’
It came as a landmark coronavirus study found the risk of transmission in classrooms is minimal, ratcheting up pressure on the Education Secretary to fully reopen schools in September.
Boris Johnson is understood to have warned that Gavin Williamson’s ‘head will be on the chopping block’ if pupils are not back in lessons next month.
The Prime Minister has declared resuming classes a ‘national priority’ and is planning an advertising blitz to urge anxious parents to send their child back to school.
His campaign was yesterday bolstered by encouraging scientific evidence which found a low threat of catching infection in schools.
Government Sage adviser Professor Russell Viner outlined the forthcoming Public Health England study and stressed that reopening schools was ‘imperative’.
‘A new study that has been done in UK schools confirms there is very little evidence that the virus is transmitted in schools,’ he told the Sunday Times.
‘This is some of the largest data you will find on schools anywhere. Britain has done very well in terms of thinking of collecting data in schools.