More staff, more teaching space and greater clarity on what to do in the event of a peak in cases is needed for schools to reopen safely, the UK’s largest teachers union said. United.
The National Education Union (NEU) has accused the government of letting students, teachers and parents down by failing to have a “plan B” if infections increase.
The UK’s chief medical officers said there were “no safe options”.
The education secretary said ministers were doing “everything we can” to help.
Millions of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to return to school in the days and weeks to come. In Scotland, schools have already reopened.
In The Sunday Times, Gavin Williamson said he wanted to reassure all parents and students that schools were “ready for them” and that going back to school was “more important than ever” this year.
Meanwhile, six more deaths have been announced in the UK, bringing the total number of people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus to 41,429.
On Saturday, the UK’s chief medical adviser warned children were more likely to be injured by not returning to class in September than if they caught coronavirus.
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Professor Chris Whitty said “the chances of children dying from Covid-19 are incredibly low” – but missing lessons “damages children in the long run”.
NEU deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said the union agreed on the benefits of returning students to school full-time, but ministers should provide more information to schools and colleges on what to do in the event of an epidemic.
Additional staff should be employed and additional teaching space should be provided so that education can continue “in a Covid-safe manner” if infections increase, Mr Courtney said.
He added: “This should include the employment of student teachers who have completed their courses and have not yet found employment, as well as the mobilization of supply staff. “
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In a joint statement, the four chief medical officers of the countries said: “The current global pandemic means that there are no safe options, but it is important that parents and teachers understand the balance of risks to achieve the best course of action for their children. ”
The NASUWT teachers ‘union said the “critical importance” of social distancing and hygiene was reinforced by the chief medical officers’ statement.
Of more than one million children who attended nursery and primary schools in England in June, 70 children and 128 staff were infected during outbreaks of the virus, according to a study by Public Health England published on Sunday.
Paul Jackson, principal of Manorfield Primary School, Tower Hamlets, in east London, told the BBC that it would have been helpful to have clearer government guidelines for principals and funds extra to help pay for extra cleaning and other resources.
“The advice is issued for all schools. So whether you are a very small school and whether you are a rural school with maybe only 70 students or whether you are a large school like us with 750 students, the guidelines given are exactly the same, “he said.
Mr Jackson said it was “almost inevitable” that there would be an increase in the number of cases of school reopening, but it was important for children to return to class.
Professor Whitty, who is also England’s chief medical officer, said ‘much more [children] risked being harmed by not just going “to school”.
According to the latest Office for National Statistics age data, 10 deaths were recorded as ‘from Covid-19’ among people aged 19 and under in England and Wales between March and June – and 46,725 deaths among people aged 20 and over. .
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: ‘We welcome the report from Public Health England, which makes it clear that coronavirus infections in schools are extremely rare, as part of the growing evidence base which indicates that schools do not appear to be a major driver of infections in the community. “
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