David Blunkett, former secretary of education, today accused teacher unions of “working against the interests of children” after telling members not to engage with government in plans to reopen schools in June.
Lord Blunkett, who held the post from 1997 to 2001, said ministers and teachers must work together to find a way to get the children safely back to the classroom as soon as possible.
He warned that it is the less fortunate in society who will be most affected by the continued closure of educational institutions by coronaviruses.
He said reopening schools is a “risk issue” and that teachers will likely have to accept it in the same way as supermarket staff and social workers.
The labor peer said he was “deeply critical” of the National Education Union (NEU), which told its members not to work with the government on its plans to reopen schools from June 1.
Lord Blunkett (right) today accused teachers’ unions, including Mary Bousted (NEU leader, left), of acting against the best interests of the students.
Schools across Europe have returned with social distancing rules in place. Children are represented in “isolation sections” in France
But Mary Bousted, joint secretary general of the NEU, today defended the union’s position because she suggested that he would not support the reopening until he was satisfied that there was only one. low risk of children spreading the disease.
Boris Johnson announced in his address to the nation on Sunday that he wanted elementary schools to begin a gradual reopening “as early as June 1”.
The progressive plan would see the reception, the pupils of first and sixth years would return first, the others joining them later. Secondary schools are not expected to reopen until the summer recess.
The government and unions are increasingly disagreeing about the plan, the latter wondering how students can get home safely in a few weeks.
Bousted told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today program that the NEU had not “ordered” the members not to dialogue with the ministers, but “we can advise them.”
A number of European countries have now reopened their schools. Ms. Bousted was informed this morning that it does not appear that NEU is doing everything possible to bring the children back to the classrooms.
She replied, “Look, if we could say that children can go back to class and the risk is low or reasonable not to go to school, not to infect each other, not to infect school staff. school and not going home and infecting their parents and loved ones, it would be wonderful, right, if schools could reopen because that is what we all want to happen.
Lord Blunkett brutalized the NEU approach by declaring in the same program a few minutes later that “we must all work together to overcome fear and face real risk”.
“I deeply criticize this attitude,” he said. “It’s about how we can work together to make it work as safely – we can’t do it 100% – as safely as possible.
“Anyone who, in my opinion, objects to this is working against the interests of children. “
Lord Blunkett said that other professions had accepted a level of risk in the performance of their duties because he suggested that teachers should do the same.
He said, “Ultimately, it’s a matter of risk. We know, I am just saying it as a fact, we know that children transmit the disease less than adults, they are less likely to contract it and therefore they are less likely to be at risk.
“When teachers and tens of thousands of great teachers did what they did and went shopping and thanked people on supermarket and store counters or they have parents who are cared for by these caregivers at night, they thank them and they know they are taking a risk.
Finnish teenagers also returned to school and are shown practicing social distancing
Schools have also successfully returned to Denmark, where the youngest pupils have been back for a month
“I know that by asking the teachers on June 1 very carefully for the best advice possible, with a risk assessment, with cleaning up, with tests, to go back and start teaching these children, it must be in the best interest of the greatest number. disadvantaged in our country who will not have guardians to recover, who will not have a parent with higher education, who will fully rely on us to return to normal as quickly as possible.
Teachers and students relied on online learning during the coronavirus lockout.
But Lord Blunkett said the current situation means that many children do not receive school fees and that this will have long-term implications if he is allowed to continue.
“The children of the most educated, the wealthy, the best informed have received some form of education in recent weeks,” he said.
“The most disadvantaged children, and only one in seven of the most vulnerable children are currently in school.
“We have a wide range of young people with different degrees of online education.
“Some children get nothing, some teachers really step down to do this work and be there for children and other schools that are not.
“If we are not sure about that, it is the children and the future that we will give up. “
Bousted said that NEU members did “a huge amount” to support e-learning during the epidemic.
But she was put under pressure following the union’s decision to advise teachers to limit online education.
“We said that you should be very careful about teaching online from your own home, at home, there are dangers,” she said.
“We didn’t say you shouldn’t do it, we said you have to be careful about it. You should use school resources.
A group of education unions yesterday urged the government to step back from its June 1 reopening plan.
In a joint statement, unions AEP, GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, NSEAD, Prospect, Unison and Unite said: “We all want schools to reopen, but this should only happen when it is safe.
“The government shows a lack of understanding of the dangers of the spread of coronavirus in schools, and out of schools to parents, siblings and the wider community. “
The unions have said they want the ministers “to work with us to create the conditions for a safe return to schools.”