Teachers criticise government for lack of answers after crunch talks on opening schools

15 May 2020, 18:00

Teachers have called for clarity on a series of issues about schools
Teachers have called for clarity on a series of issues about schools. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The head of a major teachers' union has criticised the government over a lack of answers following a key meeting today over plans to reopen schools.

After long talks with the government's scientific experts this afternoon, the NEU teaching union said in a statement that "very many questions that we asked were not addressed in the time available", including why England "seems alone in saying that social distancing is not necessary in schools".

The head of the NASUWT union accused the government of basing the decision to reopen schools on "weak" evidence, adding that he feared for the safety of teachers when children go back to classes.

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said: “Today’s meeting has raised more questions than answers.

“No information was provided to change the widely held view that the evidence base for opening schools from 1 June is weak.

“No evidence was provided at the meeting and there was no clarity about when it will be provided by SAGE.

“No confirmation was provided that teachers are at low risk of catching the virus following the wider opening of schools

“No clear information was provided on what modelling has been undertaken in relation to potential transmission rates when schools open more widely.

“Nothing in the meeting provided reassurance for the deeply worried and anxious school workforce.

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Earlier today the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that there were no specific plans to provide PPE in schools.

Downing Street has said it is looking at possibly reopening schools from June 1 with measures in place to protect the health of teachers and pupils.

Earlier today the Welsh government updated parents on schools, with them only being opened at present for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. "New cohorts" will not be brought into schools on June 1, Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford said.

Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government would be speaking to parents and staff so they knew everything had been done to make the school environment safe and give them "confidence to return".

"We'd like to take a bit longer to do that, we think it will pay off in the end and that's the nature of the way that we would do things in Wales," Mr Drakeford said.