The government has rejected demands by some teaching unions to shut schools and colleges as part of the month-long lockdown that starts on Thursday if approved by Parliament. The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), however, has backed the government.
“It is right to prioritise keeping pupils in school,” Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the school leaders’ union, said in a statement today. “No-one is more committed to ensuring that children do not lose out during this time than those that have dedicated their working lives to education. Neither though does anyone want to see pupils or staff put in harm’s way.”
Brook said that the government needed to provide transparency on the risks and questioned why the government in Westminster had not demanded face-coverings in classrooms, which are currently obligatory in Scotland in high-restriction areas.
“We want to know from the government in England why their interpretation differs and when precisely risk factors will trigger a move to rota-working,” Brook said.
As the name suggests, rota-working would mean staggering teaching into week-on, week-off classes, with smaller sizes. Such approaches have already been used in some colleges, supplemented by online learning.
One college and university lecturers union, the UCU, wants the government to move all university and college teaching online during the lockdown.
The National Education Union (NEU) says that schools should all be shut during the lockdown and re-opened only with a rota system.
Their argument is not about the safety or learning of students, but that schools are an “engine” of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus transmission.
“The lockdown would be much more effective in reducing virus levels if schools and colleges were a part of it,” Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said in a statement.
The NEU cite Office for National Statistics figures that estimate 1 percent of primary pupils and 2 percent of secondary pupils have the virus.
Keeping schools open is the “big difference” between the impending lockdown and the one in the spring, according to Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
“Because we have delayed the onset of this lockdown it does make keeping schools open harder,” he told the BBC. “We know that transmission, particularly in secondary schools, is high.”
Closing schools “may have to be revisited” during the lockdown if the transmission of the virus continues to rise, he said.