#Government faces major revolt from teachers over plans to reopen schools, as the #Observer understands The UK’s largest teachers’ union is ready to warn teachers not to return to their classrooms on #Monday for fear of safety.
The #National #Education #Union (NEU), which represents the majority of teachers and over 450,000 school staff across the UK, will advise its members that it is not safe for them to return to school before mid -January at the earliest.
#He expects most of his members to follow his advice, forcing most schools to switch to e-learning for the majority of their students.
The union will provide its members with a model letter to send to their managers explaining that they refuse to work because their workplace is unsafe, a right enshrined in law by section 44 of the #Workers #Act 1996. employment rights.
#Staff should always be prepared to work remotely, according to the union, and should volunteer to care for vulnerable students and children of key workers on school premises.
The government expects primary schools in #England to reopen in two days, with the exception, after another U-turn on #Friday, all schools in #London and other local authorities in the south where rates of transmission of #Covid-19 are high.
#Secondary school students in their exam year in #England are due back on #January 11, when most schools in #Wales will also reopen. A week later, on #January 18, all other high school students in #England are due to return, along with all schools in #Scotland.
#Kevin #Courtney, the joint secretary general of the NEU, said the government was reckless and ignored the advice of its own experts from the #Scientific #Advisory #Group for #Emergencies (#Sage).
#He said it was clear from the minutes of #Sage’s last meeting, which was released on #New #Year’s #Eve, that scientists told ministers before #Christmas that schools must be closed to contain the new highly transmissible variant. of the coronavirus.
The #December 22 minutes stated that “R would be lower with schools closed” and that it was highly unlikely that the government would be able to keep R below 1 in the presence of the new variant if schools remain open, only a more in-depth analysis is possible. after the impact of school holidays on transmission rates is known in mid-January.
NEU members who are penalized by their principals for refusing to work on school premises can count on the union for support in any legal action, #Courtney said. “#Sage’s minutes show that there is a well-founded argument that it is not safe for schools to be open, and so we think section 44 will be very helpful for that, and we protect members in these situations, ”he said. “##But frankly, I think a lot of principals will also be very concerned about opening schools.”
#An article from the #Children’s #Task and #Finish #Group for #Sage, also published on #December 31, indicates that evidence is mounting to support the view that increased transmission occurs between children when schools are open, especially among students. secondary school. A number of data sources show a reduction in transmission among children after schools close for half of the quarter, with transmission rates increasing again after returning to school.
The latest investigation into coronavirus infections shows infection rates highest among school-aged children.
“#We think we should follow the science. #We believe everyone in our country should follow the science, ”#Courtney said. “#We are convinced that we speak for society, that the government is just not taking care of us.
“#They don’t see that you have to take steps to reduce the level of the virus if you want to have a lifelong education.”
#Vik #Chechi-Ribeiro, secondary school teacher and vice president of NEU #Manchester, said: “The government’s reckless plan to… reopen primary schools risks throwing gasoline on the fire for case rates, hospital admissions and deaths. #He also ignores their own advice from #Sage.
“#Education workers have the right to a safe workplace for themselves, students and the community while continuing to provide face-to-face education for key workers and vulnerable students.”
#Courtney said ministers in the #Department of #Education were so “ideologically committed” to ongoing exams that they prioritized school attendance over measures needed to suppress transmission of the virus, further disrupting the education of pupils in general. “It’s so myopic,” he says.
#He also said that NEU members reported a “huge level of anxiety” over the reopening of schools. “#People know some of the staff who have died and other staff who have long had #Covid,” he said, calling on parents for understanding and support.
“I would tell parents: #Before #Christmas, cases of the virus were increasing very rapidly in high school and elementary school children, and we know that parents and grandparents contracted the virus from children. #It is about the community as well as education. #Having a new period of home learning, however disruptive it may be, will hopefully mean that cases will be far fewer when the children return. #That’s what you should do. ”