NEU on Somerset Schools

There has been a very public disagreement between the Government and Teaching Unions. The National Education Union are concerned that it is not safe to send children back to schools. This is based on the information to date that Government have shared with them. We asked the NEU for their view. Specifically whether Somerset schools should reopen – or are in a position to reopen.

Robin Head who is an NEU executive member for the South West sent us this statement: ” The NEU is keen to be involved in discussion in opening schools more widely in as safe a way as possible. Before last Sunday the Prime Minister had completely ignored our numerous attempts to approach meaningful engagement with him in this regard. On Sunday he then made an unprecedented announcement about certain year groups potentially returning to school on June 1st with no science behind this statement despite saying the Government continue to “follow the science”. Since Sunday he has made it clear that he expects teachers to do so with no possibility of realistically social distancing children of a very young age and without issuing teachers with enough appropriate PPE.          

Quite simply this puts the onus on all employers to take responsibility for any illness of fatalities on themselves. In effect sending people down the mine-shaft without a canary. There is no available science made available to us that says that young children cannot pass the virus onto adults putting our members, their families and the families of children at risk.         

Despite the media hysteria the NEU like all other education unions remain open to discussion and engagement about the wider opening of schools but not with set arbitrary dates. Schools can only do this after full and proper engagement about proper risk assessment. Only this week a public health spokesperson revealed on Points West that he thought wider opening of schools was potentially extremely dangerous whilst a recent highly respected Regional Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, has tweeted he thinks schools should not do this before September.       

The NEU in Somerset has happily communicated and consulted with all employers about next steps and plans to educate the County’s children as best as can be achieved. We will continue to do so.        

Schools HAVE remained largely open. Our members HAVE been engaging in teaching vulnerable students and the children of key workers. We remain extremely concerned that so many vulnerable children in Somerset remain absent from school and have sought to work with Somerset County Council to ease this situation. At the moment of the 6,000 vulnerable identified children in the County only 500 have been in school and of the 500 most at risk only 150 have been in. Simply opening schools more widely is not the only solution. It will take an enormous effort from all available public services to resolve. Public services so badly damaged by 10 years of swingeing Government cuts.”

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