Commenting on the new school return arrangements for January, Deborah Lawson, Assistant General Secretary for Community’s education and early years section, Voice, said:
“We are pleased that the Government has listened to our concerns and has made the sensible decision to delay the full return of secondary students.
“While we fully support, and have asked for, testing in schools, the late announcement of its introduction so close to the end of term has been a huge burden for already hard-pressed heads and their teams. They still need more support, but hopefully this delay will give them more time to make the necessary arrangements.
“However, while we recognise this is a fast-changing situation, it is unfortunate that plans have had to be rewritten again at short notice when warnings were made about the testing timescale imposed on schools.”
We share the concerns of primary members in areas of high and growing transmission rates which are not included in the list of areas where primaries will not open on 4 January.
There is also some confusion in the guidance over Early Years and the Education Secretary initially failed to mention whether early years settings were included in the changes he announced. We sought further clarification, and the Department confirmed that:
- the school contingency framework does not apply to early years settings;
- nationally, all early years settings are expected to open or reopen as expected – many will be still be open; and
- early years provision which is part of a primary school has the option to open or delay opening.
Because of confusing media speculation about advice from SAGE earlier this week, we have written asking for confirmation of the SAGE advice in relation to all phases of education – including the early years and primary schools. Until we receive a response, it is vital that members engage with and review health and safety risk assessments making sure that they are adhered to assure their safety. We recognise that members believe children’s education to be important and therefore should be in school, however, this should not be at the expense of their own safety.