Britain

Are teachers and unions right to challenge return?

A ROW has erupted over Government plans to reopen schools as lockdown restrictions are eased and headteachers have now said it will be impossible to get all primary pupils back in class before the summer holidays. Do you think teachers and unions right to challenge the plans to return?

Boris Johnson’s blueprint for easing the lockdown includes proposals for all primary school children to return to school a month before the summer holiday if feasible. But the National Association of Head Teachers, which represents 29,000 head teachers and other school leaders, said it had “very significant concerns” about getting schools up and running before the academic year ends and branded the aim “not realistic”.

It said: “These proposals, as they currently stand, are likely to prove impractical and unworkable in most schools.

“Unless there is a dramatic change in circumstances in the coming month, we do not believe this will be possible.

“We believe that the chances of the necessary conditions being met are exceptionally low.”

The NAHT statement comes amid growing tensions between education leaders and the Government over its plan for schools to reopen.

An alliance of nine teachers unions said plans to reope some primary schools by June 1 had to be put on hold and that it was too early for any assurances that it was safe for children to return.

The unions are meeting the chief medical officer and other experts today to discuss the plans.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has defended the approach, saying he arranged the meeting to brief teachers’ representatives on “the scientific advice underpinning our approach”.

Mr Williamson said if the scientists said a “limited number” of children could be sent back to school, it was his duty to allow this to happen.

The Education Secretary assured teachers and parents the June 1 returns would be the first phase of a “controlled and careful” process which would involve a range of protective measures, including keeping class sizes small, making sure children stayed within small groups, observing strict hygiene and cleaning measures, and having breaks and mealtimes staggered to reduce crowding.

But National Education Union joint secretary Mary Bousted said a “wider opening of schools, too early, poses a lot of unanswered questions about the risks in poor communities”.

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