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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Children face being sent to DIFFERENT schools with staggered start times and a maximum of 15 pupils to a class under radical plans to reopen classrooms within weeks - if 'posturing' unions spoiling for a fight don't veto them

Boris Johnson (pictured on Sunday night) said pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will be the first to go back from the start of the month during the staged process
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured, centre, addressing the nation last night) has said that years one and six would be the first pupils to return to schools in England under his road map to ease the UK out of the coronavirus lockdown. Teachers are in revolt against the limited reopening of schools in England from June 1, with 85 per cent saying they disagreed with plans to fully reopen primary schools in a poll conducted by the National Education Union. 

Trade unions have said that their members may refuse to go back to work under the conditions as headteachers pointed out that they can refuse to re-open schools. Dr Mary Bousted, NEU joint general secretary, described the timetable (left, Mr Johnson's road map) as 'reckless' as unions raised concerns about the Government not providing staff or youngsters with PPE (pictured, bottom-right, a teacher in France dons a facemask and, top-right, pupils practising social distancing at a hub school in Edinburgh). 

Former Tory party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: 'The unions owe the British public the responsibility of working to ensure schools open to help parents. Political posturing isn't needed at this time. The British people need the unions to co-operate with the Government and not to take inflexible positions.'


The schools section of the proposals, which were unveiled to the Commons a day after Mr Johnson addressed the nation to outline them, suggested class sizes may have to halve from the current average of 30 to allow for social distancing. That led to concerns from teachers that school buildings may be too small.
Schools will also be urged to implement one-way systems throughout their buildings, leave doors open and arrange bathroom trips in such a way that the pupils in question avoid children who outside their 'bubble'.
Reception class and Years 1 and 6 will be the first children to return at the start of next month, with the years in between in July. Years 10 and 11 would also go back at the same time to help prepare for exams, if coronavirus is spreading at a slow enough rate.
A poll conducted by the national Education Union yesterday showed 85% of teachers are opposed to the Prime Minister's plans.
And head teachers have warned they have the power to refuse to reopen if they feel it is unsafe – regardless of official instructions.
However their stance drew widespread criticism. Former Tory party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: 'The unions owe the British public the responsibility of working to ensure schools open to help parents. Political posturing isn't needed at this time. The British people need the unions to co-operate with the Government and not to take inflexible positions.'
Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said: 'I understand that the teachers are worried, but just to use the difficulties as bargaining power and obstructing the Government is irresponsible.
'What they should be doing is saying it is vital for the education of our children, particularly the disadvantaged, that we get the schools up and running as soon as possible – what can we do help make it happen? How can we find away a way around the evident problems?
And Tory MP Andrew Percy said: 'It was unions themselves who a few weeks ago were talking about June as a potential timeframe for reopening.
'Sadly, for some at the more radical end of the teaching unions, fighting the Government is more important than the educational welfare of our children or the science.
'The Government should only open schools in line with the scientific and medical advice... and ignore the minority in teaching unions spoiling for a fight.'
'Once the teachers are reassured by seeing that year groups can return safely. I think the various objections put in place by the unions will melt away under public pressure.' 
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union the National Association of Head Teachers, had demanded more protection for his members.
'It is an insult to dedicated professionals to expect them to do their duty equipped with no more protection than a homemade face-mask and a bar of soap,' he said.

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