The Government has been gambling with public health by insisting schools remain fully open, despite their own official data showing rapidly rising rates of infection in school-aged children, particularly from the new, more infectious, Covid variant. Their failures have resulted in a public health crisis and further lockdown measures. Now they must change course.
The Scottish Government has already announced that schools will stay closed at the start of next term in January. Westminster must urgently make the same decision for schools in England, and across all sectors.
The National Education Union has called for the first two weeks of learning to be online for all but key worker and vulnerable children. That fortnight should then be used to genuinely plan and negotiate with staff and their unions about what is really required to prevent packed, poorly ventilated classrooms spreading the Covid variant, and to keep schools and communities safe until vaccinations have been carried out widely – not least for education staff.
* properly resourcing online learning so that schools can operate with smaller, safer, class sizes, including ensuring parents are paid if they need to stay off work to provide childcare.
* withdrawing plans to introduce mass testing on the cheap and instead to recruit and train additional staff who can make sure that the tests are carried out as reliably as possible.
* fully maintaining isolation protocols, certainly until regular testing is fully and reliably in place.
* making sure staff and students at greater clinical risk can safely work from home.
* recognising the strain on school staff and managing the demands being put upon them.
We can’t let the Government continue to fail. Before Christmas, the EiS teaching union in Scotland won big majorities in consultative polls on industrial action to ensure safety in the worst hit areas. Every school union should be making plans to do the same after Christmas – so that the Government has to take notice.
See below for an interview I have given tonight to RT: