Union bosses have set out a list of five conditions they claim must be observed to protect teachers if schools are to re-open amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) warned that staff concerns must be ‘fully addressed’ before teachers would be willing to come back.
In a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, Dr Roach demands personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff, anti-viral cleaning measures and guidelines on how social distancing would be enforced in schools.
He also says teachers will not return to their jobs unless the Government affords them the same employment rights as other key workers and acknowledges the workforce is depleted because many are self-isolating, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Dr Patrick Roach (pictured), general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) warned that staff concerns must be ‘fully addressed’ before teachers would be willing to come back
Teachers have demanded access to PPE and anti-viral cleaning equipment before they go back to work and schools re-open. File image used
Dr Roach told the newspaper: ‘The NASUWT would not expect teachers to be asked to undertake cleaning tasks or to be expected to undertake them to the necessary standards to protect the health of pupils and the workforce.’
The Department for Education has already said teachers ‘do not need PPE’ and that their focus should be on ‘social distancing, handwashing, hygiene measures and cleaning surfaces’ to stop the virus spreading when they return.
The Government has been repeatedly slammed for its lack of PPE provision for frontline medical staff, with carers, supermarket cashiers and transport drivers also expressing concerns.
Although the Education Secretary has refused to commit to a timeline on schools re-opening, ministers are under pressure to ease parents’ concerns.
But Dr Roach and and Mr Williamson have both stressed that schools will not re-open until other lockdown measures have been eased.
When children are allowed back in the classroom, questions are being raised about how young children, especially those with special educational needs (SEN) will be able to follow social distancing guidelines.
Children at a school in Demark are pictured observing social distancing by having their desks two metres apart last week, amid concerns in the UK that pupils would struggle with the rules
Last week members of the National Education Union (NEU) wrote to the Prime Minister to outline similar concerns.
Maddie Ross, 24, a teacher at a primary school in Wolverhampton, said all teachers would be at risk if schools re-opened too early.
Miss Ross, from West Yorkshire, said: ‘It should be secondary school children that go back before primary, surely, because primary school children are going to be a lot more difficult to control, in terms of if we still need to keep two metres apart.
‘There’s no way you can get primary school children to do that, they’d be touching each other within the first few seconds of walking through the gate.’
Bryony Baynes, 58, head teacher at Kempsey Primary School in Worcester, agreed that social distancing is ‘pretty much impossible’ with young children.
Mrs Baynes, from Bredon in Worcestershire, said: ‘At the moment, staff are very willing to come in and have been brilliant so far.
‘But if the Government says that schools are to open while lockdown is still in place, that implies that the virus isn’t under control and that means I’m asking my staff to put themselves at even greater risk.’
Jackie Schneider, a part-time music teacher at a primary school in the London borough of Merton, said an early return to schools ‘could undo all the good work people have done by locking down’.
Although the Education Secretary has refused to commit to a timeline on schools re-opening, ministers are under pressure to ease parents’ concerns. File image of homeschooling used
Ms Schneider, 56, who has taught at her school for 30 years, said: ‘I would be happy to go back if that’s what the science says, but I would not be happy to be bounced back for the needs of industry.
‘When parents wave their kids goodbye every morning and send their kids to me, I want to be able to look the parent in the eye and say, I have done everything I can to keep your child safe.’
The Government has this week announced new measures to support children learning from home during lockdown.
With fears the most disadvantaged could fall behind, free laptops and tablets are being given to children whose families are on lower incomes.
If youngsters’ homes are not already kitted out with mobile or broadband internet they are being offered 4G routers free of charge.
MailOnline has contacted the Department for Education for further comment.