Voice: The Union for Education Professionals has commented on the publication of the Government’s guidance on wider opening of schools, colleges and nurseries (11 May 2020).
The union has also welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme, announced today (12 May 2020).
General Secretary Deborah Lawson said:
“We are pleased that the discussion about wider school re-opening has begun and welcome the publication of the government’s ‘Roadmap’ and supporting guidance for schools and early years settings.
“While the ‘Roadmap’ does have clear logic and science behind it, the lack of detail in the strategy leaves members deeply worried.
"The health, safety, and wellbeing of all children and staff in schools, colleges and nurseries must be paramount.
"It is also essential that a reliable test, track and trace system is in place before schools and nurseries can accept more pupils and children.
"Success of this strategy requires teachers, support staff, early education and childcare workers, and parents to be confident that they and all pupils will be safe. It is therefore essential that there is transparency about the scientific and medical evidence on which the decisions and guidance are based and that they are clearly and quickly communicated.
"Although we appreciate the logic of the recently published guidance, we have a number of concerns about the practicalities, and how some aspects can be achieved.
"The aspiration that all primary children will have a month of education before the end of this academic year is, we believe, unrealistic, and reduces the phase period to three weeks. It also increases the planning burden on schools and staff, increasing their already demanding and large workload.
“We will be raising these with ministers and officials at the earliest opportunity.
"We will also be surveying our members so that we can take their concerns to government too.
"However, we are pleased that the Government has said that it will put the brakes on wider opening if necessary, and will be guided by scientific advice on the timescale.
“We also welcome the flexibility in the guidance.
“The likelihood is that not all settings will be able to proceed to reopen at the same pace.”
Voice’s position and concerns
Voice has produced its position on what it would like to see happen before settings open more widely.
Voice’s concerns about the practicalities include:
- How will these measures work if staff are unavailable?
- How will this work if children cannot be spread out into different rooms?
- Schools do not necessarily have space to store unused equipment and furniture out of the way.
- Will there be funding for the huge amount of extra cleaning/cleaners required?
- the recognition in the guidance of the difficulties of social distancing but the reassurance that by keeping class groups together transmission will be limited;
- the guidance that face coverings are not necessary in primary schools; and
- the statement that hand washing will be essential.
Chancellor extends furlough scheme until October 12 May 2020 Press release HM Treasury
Details on phased wider opening of schools, colleges and nurseries 11 May 2020 Press release DfE
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for schools and other educational settings 11 May 2020 Collection Cabinet Office, DfE and PHE
Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings 11 May 2020 Guidance DfE
Actions for educational and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020 11 May 2020 Guidance DfE
Voice comments on Prime Minister’s address (10 May 2020)