Allow schools to close early as Omicron spreads exponentially, says UNISON 

Stopping the virus in its tracks and keeping pupils and communities safe should be a top priority

Allowing schools to close early this week would reduce the risk of Omicron transmission, make Christmas less stressful for families and give staff more time to get their boosters, says UNISON today (Wednesday).

The union wants the government to take immediate action and says this would help reduce the risk to everyone in the lead up to the festive break.

Heads should be able to close schools a few days early without the fear of government criticism. Ministers should also ensure air filtration devices are sent to every school before they start back in the new year.

The union also wants to see face masks reintroduced into classrooms and all other parts of secondary school premises, along with the return of ‘bubbles’.

With Covid running rife in schools, says UNISON, many are struggling with staff absences. The union believes the government needs to put in place a robust plan so any disruption next term can be minimised.

Staggered starts in the new year would also help schools ensure additional measures are put in place to make learning as safe as possible, says UNISON.

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “Stopping the virus in its tracks and keeping pupils and communities safe should be a top priority. Action now will help cut family stress levels this Christmas.

“The government should send air filtration devices to every school ​that needs them so they’re in place ready for the new term next year. Bubbles must come back, and pupils shouldn’t all return at once on the same day in January.

“Face masks in secondary school classrooms will help cut the virus risk, as will early closing this week where necessary.

“Ensuring everyone who works in a school gets full pay if they get the virus or need to isolate is a must too.”

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 service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

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