This Committee fully endorses the statement issued on Friday by the TUC following discussion with the affiliated school trade unions. We note in particular the six key principles that need to be in place for schools to begin safely reopening to more pupils:
· Safety and welfare of pupils and staff as the paramount principle
· No increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a national test and trace scheme
· A national Covid-19 education taskforce with government, unions and education stakeholders to agree statutory guidance for safe reopening of schools
· Consideration of the specific needs of vulnerable students and families facing economic disadvantage
· Additional resources for enhanced school cleaning, PPE and risk assessments
· Local autonomy to close schools where testing indicates clusters of new covid-19 cases
The announcement by the Prime Minister on 10th May does not meet the principles set out for increasing the number of pupils able to attend school by 1st June. The further clarification issued on 11th May is fundamentally flawed. It both ignores the spread of the disease through asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carriers and it abandons social distancing in the classroom for Foundation stage children.
The plan to allow Reception and Year 1 in particular to attend is not an educational decision but purely an economic one. However, this is the group of children where it is least the least possible to practice social distancing.
The new guidance does not provide adequate Health & Safety for school staff, pupils and parents. We agree that:
· The trade unions demand from the Government an agreement they will not declare schools open on 1st June and will instead agree to meet with the trade unions to protect the health & safety of school staff, pupils and parents,
· We call on Local Authorities to meet with the government urgently to discuss the plans and infrastructure for community testing to ensure that any incidence of COVID-19 can be isolated to prevent the return of a second ‘spike’ of the disease,
· Until the six principles are implemented it is not safe to admit the increased number of students the government is proposing and we advise members of their rights not to return to work under Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and give members full support,
· Should any action be taken against UNISON under the anti-trade union legislation, we call on the TUC to give full support by organising action