Commenting on the latest Department for Education (DfE) guidance for education and early years settings in England, Community Assistant General Secretary (Voice Community education and early years section) Deborah Lawson said:
“We are pleased that the Government has listened to the unions and has taken decisive action to limit the spread of the virus in communal areas in education and early years settings.
“We know that many members have concerns about the rising infection rates amongst children and young people, and we have seen this in the number of schools which have had to re-introduce their own mitigating measures since half-term, so it is pleasing that our calls have been heeded and action is being recommended with immediate effect.
“Once again, it seems secondary schools and colleges will be required to hold on-site testing at the beginning of January before lessons can start back after the Christmas break. Again, we agree that it is important that as many children and young people as possible are tested, as this should help to ensure that schools are as safe as can be.
“However, with less than three weeks of term left, schools and colleges are once again having to pick up the pieces of a last minute plan. Not only will this mean some staff working through the holidays to prepare the site and organise staffing, but it will delay the start of term for almost all learners, putting extra pressure on staff and students at a time when they want to be focusing on teaching and learning.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Voice Community has been a strong supporter of the need for reasonable control measures identified through robust risk assessments, and has always supported an individual’s right to wear a face covering if they feel it is necessary or feel safer doing so.
However, members should consider carefully the needs of children when making a decision on wearing a mask in the workplace and should consider whether other forms of PPE would be more appropriate – especially for those children who rely on lip reading such as the deaf and hearing impaired.
In response to a media enquiry about whether schools should start preparing to move more learning online in response to the current COVID situation, Deborah Lawson said:
“Since the end of the Spring 2021 lockdown, schools have been required to have contingency plans. This has meant every school has had to be prepared to provide learning if they needed to close again.
“We are incredibly proud of the education workforce – including early years, teachers and support staff – who have endeavoured, while at breaking point, to make sure that learning – both in the classroom and online – has been able to continue whenever there have been outbreaks and for those self-isolating.
“Schools do not need to prepare to move back onto remote learning as they never moved away from that capability. What they and those who work in them need now is the support of not only the Government and public agencies, but also parents and the general public to ensure that everybody does their bit – wearing masks, following mandated instructions, social distancing – whatever is required, so their efforts to keep schools open will not be in vain.”
Department for Education (DfE):
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