Voice has given its reaction to the Government’s guidance for schools and other education and early years settings in England for the Autumn term.
Commenting on the guidance, General Secretary Deborah Lawson said:
“We are pleased that these announcements have been made now so that schools, colleges and early years settings can plan ahead.
“We have advised schools, colleges and early years settings to make sure their site is as safe as can be by undertaking all necessary steps and rigorously reviewing risk assessment.
“It remains a legal requirement for all employers to assess the risk in the workplace. Voice is aware of the concerning evidence emerging about the unequal impact COVID-19 is having on BAME workers. We would expect employers to support their BAME and other vulnerable staff and seek to identify any existing underlying health conditions that may increase the risks to them when working with children.
“If there is sound scientific evidence on the reduction of social distancing for children, then this is good news, however, there must be a plan B in the event of a future spike in cases.
"We are particularly disappointed with the emphasis on fining parents as an approach which focused on building parental confidence in the safety of the return to education is preferable to sanctions that are likely to hit those who are already struggling.
“There are still many questions to be addressed, such as how will travel on public transport or wrap-around care be bubbled?
“What arrangements will there be for catch-up for pupils if a whole class or year has to be isolated at home because of a case, and how will this be taken into account for exams? We will continue to ask these questions and more.
“It is right that the guidance is published before schools and term-time settings close for the summer holidays, but the level of detailed planning and organisation that is required to make this work must not be underestimated, and is likely to mean many staff will continue to work without a break through the summer holiday period to implement the new guidance successfully.
"There will also be a huge impact on cleaning and site staff and extra funding must also be available where necessary to support schools, colleges and nurseries to implement these plans.”
“Despite the change in social distancing, if schools do not have sufficient space, it may still not be possible for all schools to open with a full complement of pupils in the Autumn."
Department for Education (DfE):
Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak Guidance DfE
What all schools will need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak from the start of the autumn term.
Schools and colleges to reopen in full in September Press release, DfE