IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Islington Schools Close

Education union says government’s decision has come ‘far too late’, potentially exposing many teachers to the coronavirus

20 March, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

 Ken Muller: ‘There doesn’t seem to be a proper plan for staff and for students who need support’

ALL schools in Islington will shut this afternoon (Friday) with GCSEs and A-levels postponed, but the National Education Union (NEU) says the government’s actions are “far too late”.

Children of ‘key workers will be allowed back to school so their parents can continue working.

This morning (Friday), a list detailing who is considered a ‘key worker’ was released by the government.

The list includes:

  • Frontline health workers such as doctors and nurses
  • Some teachers and social workers
  • Workers in key public services including those essential to the justice system, religious staff and public service journalists
  • Local and national government workers deemed crucial to delivering essential public services
  • Workers involved in food production processing, distribution, sale and delivery
  • Public safety workers including police, armed forces personnel, firefighters and prison staff
  • Essential air, water, road and rail transport workers
  • Utilities, communication and financial services staff, including postal workers and waste disposal workers

Ken Muller, a spokesman for the Islington branch of the NEU, said the government had been “wrong” in allowing schools to stay open for so long, potentially exposing many teachers to the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus.

Cllr Comer-Schwartz

He added: “The government is far too late, not just about closing schools. There doesn’t seem to be a proper plan for staff and for students who need support.”

Jo Dibb is the executive headteacher of the Islington Futures Federation of schools which includes Elizabeth Garrett Anderson in Angel, Beacon High (formerly Holloway School), Copenhagen Primary School near Caledonian Road and Vittoria Primary School in Barnsbury.

She told the Tribune: “Our teachers will not stop working just because the schools are closed. We have online platforms to continue teaching our pupils. We do not want them to be missing out.”

Jo Dibb

Islington’s schools chief Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz added that other schools are expected to offer online learning as well. She said: “We were not given advance notice of schools closing, but considering what had happened in other European countries it was always a possibility and we were planning.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that schools will be closing on Wednesday night after Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said earlier in the week that he did not want to take such a measure.

Some schools, including the Richard Cloudesley School for special educational needs pupils in Islington, had already closed before the government’s announcement.

Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.

Mr Williamson said: “Fighting Coronavirus and protecting the vulnerable and our NHS are the government’s top priorities right now. That’s why we are asking schools, nurseries and colleges to close – except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. We are facing increasingly extraor­dinary circumstances, but by asking schools to support our key workers and vulnerable children I am confident we will help beat this virus.”

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