Tuesday 5 January 2021

Staff and unions force Johnson's hand over school safety

As the rapid retreat over the exams fiasco in the summer showed, this has long been a government that could be forced to U-turn once pressure was applied. Events over the last 24 hours have again shown just what can be achieved when a lead is given.

In the face of trade union pressure, as well as the ever-growing health crisis, Boris Johnson was forced to shift from his dangerous insistence that "schools are safe" into admitting that they were in fact "vectors for transmission" of the virus after all!

Some of the details of the announcements still make little sense. For example, why have Early Years settings been told they should remain fully open and why are BTEC vocational exams still going ahead in the coming week? This lot can't even handle their U-turns competently!

The battle for health, safety and welfare in both our schools and our wider communities is still far from over. The NEU must remain on the front foot, not lapse back again into reliance on letter writing and lobbying alone. The intense activity and organisation of union members, reps and officers over the last few days achieved far more for school safety than months of hopeful appeals for Ministers to 'see sense'.

We have to make sure that schools operate safely for staff that are still on site and the priority learners that will be taught face-to-face; that staff are able to resist unacceptable workload demands around online learning; that learners at home get the laptops and other help they need; and that parents and carers are paid when they need to be at home for childcare reasons.

But, overall, we can be proud that we have helped to push the government back and have made sure our communities are a little safer at least!

Here is an interview I gave to RT tonight on their main news broadcast about what still needs to be put in place to support parents, staff and students.

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