Commenting on the news that many English schools will be opening tomorrow [4th January] for pupils to return, Deborah Lawson, Assistant General Secretary, said:
“The absence of sound scientific evidence that young children do not transmit COVID-19 more readily is a matter of grave concern and jeopardises the safety of our members within primary schools, AP, colleges, SEND provision and Early years settings due to reopen, in England, on 4 January 2021.
While the risk to children and young people may remain small, the risk for older pupils/students and staff is unacceptable.
We believe that school and nurseries are normally the best place for pupils to learn, and Voice Community members always prioritise education/childcare and their pupils, however, in the current circumstances, the new strain of COVID-19 and lack of scientific evidence turns that situation on its head and we do not believe that all schools or nurseries are currently safe for staff or pupils.
We challenge the wisdom of the decision that primary schools, colleges, early years, AP and SEND provision should reopen on 4 January and whilst we want to support members who do not believe it is safe for them to return to face-to-face teaching or childcare for all but vulnerable children and those of key workers, we cannot recommend that members refuse to return to the workplace due to the risk that this may pose to their continued employment.
Where members have specific concerns, they should contact the duty officer on 01332 372337 who can advise further on their specific circumstances.
We will continue to pressure the Government to change its current stance on school re-opening.
In December, Voice Community proposed that teaching and learning should be undertaken remotely until it is safe for schools to fully reopen.
We have been working and continue to want to work with Department for Education officials and ministers but lack of transparency and availability of evidence makes this increasingly difficult. We will, however, persevere in order to make schools, nurseries, staff and pupils as well as their communities safe.
It is essential that the government provides the evidence that younger children are not more likely to spread COVID-19, that mass testing is made available for all phases of education, including early years and other measures, including vaccination, are put in place to assure the safety of the whole education and early years workforce, children and students and prevent further spread of COVID-19.”
Our call lines will reopen at 9.00 on Monday 4 January, so members who require further advice or assistance should contact us on 01332 372 337 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org