Boris Johnson assures parents ‘schools are safe’ for children
Since the first lockdown back in March last year, teaching unions have been fighting for schools to remain closed claiming it is not safe to reopen. In the first lockdown, teachers conducted lessons remotely as school buildings were closed to most pupils except for the children of key workers.
Unions continued to insist schools should remain closed as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Today, all of the unions called for classroom teaching to be “paused” until all staff are vaccinated.
The joint statement was signed by GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, Unison and Unite.
Tonight, the Prime Minister will announce tougher restrictions, with classrooms expected to shut until mid-February half term.
Boris Johnson says primary schools will remain open
Primary schools to remain open
A similar arrangement is expected to the first lockdown in March where provisions were made for the children of key workers.
During a visit to a London hospital as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine rollout began, Mr Johnson insisted primary schools will continue to remain open but appears he may make a U-turn in tonight’s announcement.
The Prime Minister said: “We will have to look very hard at what we do with secondary schools later in the month.
“Closing primary schools is, for all of us, a last resort.
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Secondary schools could be shut longer
“That’s why we are looking at everything else we can possibly do to avoid that.
“I would stress schools are safe and the risk to kids is very, very small.
“The risk to teachers, and of course we will do everything we can to protect teachers, but the risk to teachers is no greater than it is to anyone else.
“The reasons for wanting to keep schools open I think are very, very powerful.”
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Schools in hotspot areas such as Essex, Kent and London have been closed today following a Department of Education announcement last week.
But headteachers in Surrey, Gloucestershire, Newcastle, Norfolk, Liverpool, County Durham, West Sussex, Sheffield and Leeds have remained closed.
The NEU said: “We are calling on Gavin Williamson to actually do what he professes he does: to follow the science and announce, now, that primary schools in England should move to online learning – apart from key worker and vulnerable children for at least the first two weeks of January.
“It is not good enough to always be behind the curve, playing catch up with new strains of Covid, seeing hospital admissions rise and case numbers spiral out of control.”
All schools are expected to be closed until February
NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach called for a nationwide move to remote learning.
He said: “The NASUWT is completely committed to ensuring that children can return to school as quickly as possible.
“However, it is now abundantly clear that the pandemic is seriously impacting on the ability of all schools and colleges to continue to operate normally.
“The NAUSWT is calling for an immediate nationwide move to remote education for all pupils in primary, secondary and special schools and colleges.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector, warned closing schools put children’s lives on hold and should be kept to an “absolute minimum”.
She wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “It is increasingly clear that children’s lives can’t just be put on hold while we wait for vaccination programmes to take effect, and for waves of infection to subside.
“The longer the pandemic continues, the more true this is.
“For all these reasons, we must renew and maintain the consensus that children’s time out of school should be kept to the absolute minimum.”