The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP
Secretary of State for Education
Department for Education
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT
19 February 2021
Dear Secretary of State
Members of Voice Community agree that pupils are best educated in school, but this must be achieved safely. While speculation about the wider opening of schools abound, the fact that rates of infections, hospital admissions and deaths are declining is most welcome, but the wider opening of schools cannot jeopardise this or the health of those who work and learn in them.
Previously, the Prime Minister has advocated caution in relation to the lifting of restrictions. For the wider and eventual full opening of all schools to be sustainable, and minimise the risk of further disruption to education and a rise in infection rates, I urge you and the Prime Minister to exercise caution for the wider opening of schools.
A phased return to classroom learning would:
enable the logistical challenge of pupil and staff testing to be managed to minimise further loss of classroom learning and ease pressure on workload;
serve to increase the confidence of staff, pupils and parents that a combination of staff and pupil testing and in-school and community safety measures will not increase, or halt the decline, of infection rates;
afford schools the ability to act dynamically should they need to address rising infection rates in their community; and
be sustainable in the long term, reducing the risk of further disruption to the education of our children.
While plans may be in an advanced state and subject to change in light of emerging data and evidence, I would value a meeting, via telephone or video conference, with you or your officials to be briefed on the detail of the plans as soon as possible after the announcement.
I look forward to a swift response.
Assistant General Secretary
Community Union (Voice Section)