Early return of schools could be "disastrous" in COVID-19 battle, say teachers

Teaching unions have warned against a premature reopening of schools amid fears it could be "potentially disastrous" and result in another spike in COVID-19 cases.

The premature return of schools could be disastrous say teaching unions
The premature return of schools could be disastrous say teaching unions

The British Irish Group of Teacher Unions (BIGTU), representing 1 million teachers, has raised concerns in a letter to the Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney and other administrations around the UK and Ireland. It has been signed by the heads of Scotland's two main teaching unions.

The teaching representatives urge “significant caution in any consideration of reopening schools.”

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Among the Scottish signatories are Larry Flanagan, General Secretary EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland) and Seamus Searson, General Secretary SSTA (Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association).

Mr Flanagan said: “Re-opening schools ahead of adequate “testing, tracing and isolating capacity” would be potentially disastrous for Scotland’s efforts to control the spread of the virus.

“Teachers and parents will need to be absolutely assured that schools are safe places before they reopen. Whilst the Scottish Government has sought to offer reassurance around this area, and in Ireland the Government has announced September as its restart date, the UK Government seems overly keen to reopen schools as part of its economic recovery plan. We should not be bounced in Scotland into any similar rash approach.”

The General Secretaries of 10 teacher trade unions across the UK and Ireland have signed the letter to the Education Ministers in all 5 jurisdictions.

As well as Mr Swinney, it has gone to England's Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Education minister. Northern Ireland education minister Peter Weir has received a copy as well as his counterpart in the Irish Republic Joe McHugh.

It calls for the establishment of sufficient capacity to “test trace and isolate” the infection as a prerequisite for school reopening, alongside “significant operational changes [being] in place to ensure effective social distancing, strong hygiene routines linked to thorough cleansing practices, appropriate PPE [being] available where required, and ongoing risk assessments in place to monitor operations.”

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