Unions urge teachers to stay away from classrooms, warning that the reopening proposal is a ‘complete shambles.’
In England, the proposed reopening of schools has been thrown into disarray, with unions urging teachers not to return to schools, principals launching legal challenges to the proposals of the government, and senior Tories warning that school gates will have to remain closed for weeks.
Teachers accused the government of dragging its feet on reopening schools and called for a last-minute pause, warning that some primary school principals would arrive at work on Monday morning not knowing if they would be able to reopen schools. The education minister, Gavin Williamson, also faced renewed calls for his resignation over the chaos.
Calls are mounting this weekend for teachers to have quicker access to the Covid vaccine and for schools to receive more military assistance to safely and efficiently test children. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the School and College Leaders Association (ASCL), told the Observer, “On Monday, the individuals I represent will go to their schools and colleges without knowing exactly what employees may or may not have. There is considerable uncertainty.”
There might well be several directors who will write to parents saying, ‘We don’t know what we can do on Monday, we shouldn’t come to your children.’
“It’s obvious to everyone that the government has made a complete shambles of the arrangements for the start of the spring term with late and confused communications and a lack of clear academic justification.”
Some conservatives think it might be appropriate to wait until the February term. Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, said, “When so many parts of the NHS are on the brink, opening schools is massively risky.” The economic and human effect of holding them closed is serious – but so is the impact of thousands of additional deaths that are entirely preventable.
So, if we really end up keeping most schools closed until the February term, I wouldn’t be shocked.
The frustration of teachers was fuelled by the announcement last week that the government’s Emergency Science Advisory Committee had warned ministers that if schools opened this week, it was “highly unlikely” that the pandemic could be brought under control.
On Monday, when most schools are expected to reopen, the National Education Union (NEU) urges elementary school workers to stay out of classrooms. The change would cause some schools and the majority of their students to turn to online learning. The union said Saturday that after the Christmas break, all elementary and secondary schools should remain closed for two weeks. The NASUWT Teachers Union
In the meantime, the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) and ASCL have launched legal action against the government, requesting that, given the greater portability of the current Covid variant, it reveal the safety evidence for its reopening timetable. Paul Whiteman, NAHT General Secretary, said, “School leaders are in an impossible situation.” The government’s simplistic approach to “open school gates” or “closed school gates” means that they are paralyzed.
It will be a tough couple of days. We hope that clarification will be given as soon as possible by the government this weekend or early next week.
The crisis brings more pressure on Williamson, who was forced to resign last summer over his audit handling. He has already reversed his decision to open elementary school on Monday in several parts of London. Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said, “Williamson is now no doubt the worst secretary of education in a generation.” This government has consistently failed our children and young people since March, at an immense cost to their future. He’s got to go.’
Many people in school and college leadership know that they will be kept accountable for their job, Barton said, “and that if they were to lose the trust of their employees to the extent that I believe the secretary of state has lost the confidence of the profession, they would definitely consider their own position.” Gii there