Government must explain how school staff and pupils will be kept safe 

Ministers need to work with unions to create safe schools

Ministers must stop dodging the issue of safety and provide a clear explanation of how schools keep pupils, staff and parents safe before any mass reopening, says UNISON responding to the government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy published today (Monday).

School support staff are worried at what they see as the government’s ‘cavalier’ approach to safety in English schools, which will needlessly put their health, and that of children and parents, at risk, UNISON says.

Scotland and Wales taking a different approach to England have added to the air of confusion and concern, warns UNISON.

School staff are still in the dark about the availability and use of protective equipment, cleaning products, how social distancing will work when dealing with very young children, and whether track and trace will be up and running to nip any local outbreaks in the bud, says UNISON.

Calls by UNISON, other education unions and the TUC to work with the government to develop a coherent plan to safely open schools have so far fallen on deaf ears.

UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “A rushed and chaotic reopening of schools will do more harm than good and could well be dangerous.

“Children, parents and staff are worried by the government’s cavalier attitude. They all need to be confident their safety is at the top of the government’s list.

“Valid questions have gone unanswered as schools are pushed to reopen, regardless of whether it’s safe to do so.

“Ministers must pause their plans and work together with unions to create safe schools.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police forces and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

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