Gavin Williamson, the secretary of education, is trying to break the deadlock between the government and teacher unions over the return of children to school next month.
Boris Johnson’s plan to reopen schools from June 1 as part of coronavirus the foreclosure faces a revolt from unions, school leaders, local government leaders and city mayors.
Backed by teachers’ unions, council leaders demand powers to close schools if tests reveal COVID-19[female[feminine and some mayors threaten to refuse to allow them to reopen.
Williamson therefore announced that he had arranged for union leaders to meet with England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and other experts for a briefing on his scientific advice.
Earlier this week, the secretary of education accused the unions of “frightening” his plans for gradual return of students, saying the class size was 15, additional cleanup and other measures. safety would contribute to the safety of schools.
But in writing in the Daily Mail, he took a much more conciliatory tone, insisting that safety comes first and that going back to school on June 1 – for elementary students – is just the first phase of a controlled and careful return to school.
“If, on the basis of the latest scientific advice, we can bring a limited number of children back to school, then I believe it is my duty to do everything I can to bring them back there, because Being in school with a teacher is the best way to learn, “he wrote.
“Of course, safety comes first, but we also need to be aware of the potential damage to a child’s education not to send them back to class.
“It has now been more than seven weeks since schools have been closed to everyone except a very small number of children and until the rate of coronavirus infection begins to drop, we cannot bring back more students .
“During this time, I have constantly discussed with school principals and teachers’ unions the best way to open schools in a gradual and careful manner.
“Later that day, I arranged for union leaders to meet with the chief medical officer and other experts so that they could be informed of the scientific advice that underpins our approach. “
Williamson says he agrees with former Secretary of Work Education David Blunkett who said this week that it is important to get the most disadvantaged children back to school as soon as possible .
He says the youngest are at the top of the queue to go back to school, with students going to high school and older students going to take their GCSEs and A Levels next year.
“This is the first phase of a controlled and careful return to school,” he writes. “It doesn’t happen overnight and it won’t happen without schools putting in place a series of protective measures to reduce transmission.
“The safety of children and their teachers is my number one priority.
“I know that some teachers’ unions still have concerns, just as I know that parents and teachers have concerns. I intend to continue talking to each of them and working with them on any issues they may have.
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“All of us in education have a duty to work together to get children back to school.
“Let me reassure families that we are giving schools all the guidance and support they will need to welcome students again.
“It involves keeping classes small, making sure kids stay in small groups, and being careful with hygiene, cleaning and spreading out breaks and meals. “
But the revolt of what conservative ministers have called “The Blob” in the past – unions and political opponents campaigning against conservative education policy – is on the increase.
Judith Blake of the Local Government Association said that she had the power to close schools: “We know parents are eager to send their children back to school or nursery.
“Plans to reopen schools and early childhood facilities should aim to reassure parents that children can return to school safely. The publication of scientific advice is vital to help reassure.
“The safety of staff, parents and families is absolutely paramount.
“Boards must be able to close supply where testing indicates clusters of new COVID-19 cases and it is vital that schools have the resources to provide staff with the necessary protective equipment and soap and a hand sanitizer for cleaning. “
Supporting the LGA, NAS / UWT secretary general Patrick Roach said teachers can legally refuse to return to work unless they have the same protection as other front-line staff.
And about the school closings, he said, “Make the decision to close a school where testing indicates that a cluster will be an essential part of controlling the spread of the virus.
“However, such a mechanism rests on the establishment of an effective and generalized screening and screening program, something which is sorely lacking to date and which the government has not managed to master.
“We have challenged the government to publish the scientific advice that supports its decision to try to start reopening schools from June 1 and explain how it can demonstrate to school staff and parents that the decisions that it takes are the right ones to protect the public. health.
“NASUWT remains clear that no school should reopen until it can prove that it is safe to do so. “
Earlier this week, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said he would not allow city schools to readmit students if he believed that the safety of staff and youth would be at risk.
And Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham urged the ministers to work with the unions before going ahead with proposals to open primary schools to all students before the summer recess.