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You will no doubt have heard the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday that the government intends to increase the number of children attending early years settings and primary schools in England from 1 June.

At UNISON we have always been clear that we want to work with government on the issue of schools opening to more pupils. However we firmly believe schools should only increase numbers when it is safe to do so for pupils, parents and staff. Any plan to reopen schools needs to address a range of issues including PPE, testing, tracing, isolation and social distancing. Government has to date failed to deliver on these vital safety measures.

The devolved nations have decided that it is not currently safe to increase numbers in schools, so why is the UK government being so cavalier with the lives and wellbeing of pupils and staff in England?

We are calling for a meeting with the government to work out a safe plan for getting staff back to work safely. So we are advising members not to engage with planning for a return to school from 1 June just yet. But keep an eye out on our website and Facebook page for urgent updates.

Please be assured this is about putting pressure on the government, not your individual school.

Can you take a couple of minutes to tell us what you think?
Whatever type of school setting you work in, your answers will help us put pressure on government to hit the brakes until there’s a proper plan in place.

You’re the experts on what works in schools and you need to be heard.

Take the survey


Education unions’ statement on the safe reopening of schools 

Today’s statement follows a longer statement to the Secretary of State on Friday (8 May), which set out in full detail the principles and tests necessary for the safe reopening of schools. It is signed by AEP, GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, NSEAD, Prospect, UNISON and Unite.

“We all want schools to re-open, but that should only happen when it is safe to do so. The government is showing a lack of understanding about the dangers of the spread of coronavirus within schools, and outwards from schools to parents, sibling and relatives, and to the wider community.

“Uniquely, it appears, school staff will not be protected by social distancing rules. 15 children in a class, combined with their very young age, means that classrooms of 4 and 5-year olds could become sources of Covid-19 transmission and spread.  While we know that children generally have mild symptoms, we do not know enough about whether they can transmit the disease to adults. We do not think that the government should be posing this level of risk to our society.

“We call on the government to step back from the 1st June and work with us to create the conditions for a safe return to schools based on the principles and tests we have set out.”

Our key safety tests
Along with the other education unions, we have written to the Education Secretary outlining the key tests we believe must be met before schools in England can be safely reopened. They include:

  • No increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a test and trace scheme
  • A joint taskforce to agree statutory guidance
  • Consideration of the specific needs of vulnerable students and families
  • Additional resources for enhanced cleaning, PPE and risk assessments
  • Local autonomy to close schools where testing finds clusters of new cases