IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Education union backs Islington schools as many stay closed

NEU says most teachers and pupils should not return to classrooms until coronavirus tests have been met

05 June, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Ken Muller: ‘While children are less likely to be seriously ill from this disease, there’s no evidence about the rate of transmission. There’s a risk to teachers and support staff and to the wider community’

SCHOOLS should stay closed to all except for key workers and vulnerable children until it is safe for teachers and pupils to return, an education union has said.

It is understood only one of the borough’s 48 primary schools – and a free school in Highgate – reopened their doors on Monday, in accordance with the government’s guidelines which said Year 1 and Year 6 pupils could return to classes.

Council figures show there were 16 primary schools open for some or all of the specified year groups by Wednesday.

A spokesman added that by June 9 this will have increased to 39 schools, with more set to reopen later this month.

But Islington National Education Union spokesman Ken Muller said the council supported the NEU’s position that schools should not reopen until five tests had been met.

These include a big reduction in cases of Covid-19, a national plan for social distancing, comprehensive testing for children and staff, a “whole school” testing strategy when a case occurs, and protection for vulnerable staff.

Mr Muller added: “We’ve told our 1,500 Islington members, who cover the majority of schools in the borough, that they should not open unless they feel safe to do so. Very few did at the start of this week. We estimate that more will in the next few weeks.

“It is not currently safe for schools to open. Members of the independent SAGE group have come forward to say that it’s not safe for the schools to reopen.

“While children are less likely to be seriously ill from this disease, there’s no evidence about the rate of transmission. There’s a risk to teachers and support staff and to the wider community.”

A Department for Education spokesman said plans to reopen schools are based on “scientific and medical advice”, and added that being at school was important for children’s education and well-being.

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