UNISON has joined with our sister trade unions across the education sector to call on the government to delay the full reopening of all schools for two weeks to minimise the spread of Covid-19.
We are not calling for schools to be closed, contrary to what some media reports and the government suggest. Schools have remained open throughout the Covid emergency to support vulnerable and key worker children and to provide online learning for other children.
We do not believe that it is safe, given the current scientific advice and data about the transmission rates of Covid, for staff to return to schools where all children are expected to return. A short break of two weeks, with remote learning for those who are not vulnerable or key worker children, would allow the government to start vaccinating school staff and adopt other measures to get the virus under control.
UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “The Government must act decisively now by delaying the start of term for all schools by two weeks because of spiralling infection rates. Education should move online except for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
“UNISON has been calling for this ‘circuit-break’ since well before Christmas. Ministers have had weeks to get this right instead of leaving parents, staff and whole communities confused.
“The union is clear that members who work in schools have a right to a safe working environment. They shouldn‘t have to work where they face serious and imminent danger.
“Ministers must also ensure any extension of the vaccine priority list covers all school staff and not just teachers.”
Yesterday, along with our sister trade unions, we issued guidance to our members who work in schools. We believe only those staff needed to open schools for vulnerable and key workers children should be returning to work from Monday 4 January.