Teachers’ unions slam government for ‘last minute’ directives to reopen schools


Teachers’ unions have criticized the government for introducing new guidelines on reopening secondary schools just days before millions of students return to class.On Friday evening, the Department of Education (DfE) released its advice on how schools in areas where the number of Covid-19 cases has increased significantly could be placed in a ‘rotation system’ to limit the number of people with whom the students come into contact.

During this time, teachers and students may need to cover their faces in common areas. But, union leaders expressed dismay that the guidelines were announced at the last minute, adding that many school leaders would find it difficult to implement the rules in such a short time frame.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders union, said the timing for the advice was “wrong.” “It was obvious weeks ago that foreclosure advice was needed,” he said.

“The government’s decision to publish this at 9 p.m. on the Friday of the bank holiday weekend before most schools return is utterly reprehensible and demonstrates a complete lack of respect for the well-being of school leaders and teachers. their teams.

“The decision confirms that the government simply does not understand the commitment and professionalism of school leaders who will feel compelled to act immediately.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he felt a “tired and resigned sense of inevitability” at the time of the announcement.

Asked how teachers would feel, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “I think, probably, the most polite response… is a tired and resigned feeling of inevitability that we are here again, at the last minute with something we’ve been accused of expressing betrayal by asking – where is plan B in the event of a local lockdown – it’s finally here.

Meanwhile, Labor shadow education secretary Kate Green said the time was right for the “beggar” advice.

She added: “The incompetence of the government is insulting to the principals and teachers who have worked so hard during the summer to prepare the schools for the return of the children.”

Making the announcement, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said any change in school attendance “will never be a last resort.”

He added, “However, it is important that government and schools prepare for the worst-case scenario, so this framework represents reasonable contingency planning that any responsible government would put in place.”

Robert Halfon, Conservative chairman of the Commons Special Committee on Education, acknowledged that the directives given days before the children return to class are “incredibly difficult” for teachers.

“Well, I don’t know why this decision was made, I’m not in government. It’s better if it’s there, ”he told BBC Breakfast.

“I understand it’s incredibly difficult for teachers and support staff because it just came out.

“Maybe the government received last minute science advice from the World Health Organization, I don’t know, but the important thing is that the advice was well received.”

Initially, the new guidance had said that if a single case of the coronavirus was confirmed, every student in the affected person’s age group – or ‘bubble’ – might need to be quarantined for two weeks. However, this passage was deleted by the DfE shortly after its publication on Friday evening.

Asked about removing the paragraph from the guide soon after it was released, Mr Halfon added: “Obviously these things shouldn’t be happening and mistakes have obviously been made and corrected, but the important thing is that guidelines are correct.

“And the Department of Education should do everything possible to help schools work through guidance and help children return to school.”

A new orientation favors the rotation system

A ‘rotation system’ limiting the number of students attending secondary schools at any one time could be used for local lockdown areas, while teachers and students might need to wear headgear in common areas, according to new government guidelines.

The phased approach will reduce the number of people students come in contact with, helping to break the chains of transmission by giving enough time at home for symptoms to become apparent, the DfE said.

If a case of coronavirus is confirmed, every student in the affected person’s class – or “bubble” – may need to be quarantined for two weeks, he adds.

The long guidance said schools should base their plans on a four-tier system and additional measures for secondary schools should come into effect at the second tier.

He says, “Schools should ideally use a rotation system which means students spend two weeks on site, followed by two weeks at home.

“However, schools can choose to organize a one-week placement (so five days on site, followed by nine days at home) if this is necessary for the effective delivery of the program. ”

The guide adds: “In all areas of national government intervention, in schools where students in grades seven and above are educated, adults and students should wear face masks when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in hallways and areas where social distancing cannot be easily maintained. ”

The DfE said any suspected coronavirus case will need to self-isolate and get tested.

The guide continues, “If a case is confirmed, local public health officials will work with the school to take appropriate action, including asking all members of a student’s bubble to self-isolate for 14 days. and access distance education while other students continue to attend. ”

The guidelines do not apply to primary school children, as scientific evidence indicates that they “play a limited role in transmission.”

All schools remain open at level one, while levels three and four involve tighter restrictions such as closures to all except students from vulnerable groups or children of key workers.


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