January re-opening of Schools and Colleges

NSEAD calls for delay for all settings

On the 22nd December, SAGE advised the UK Government that the R rate might be kept below 1 if schools stay closed in January.  The UK Government continues to ignore recommendations of SAGE, the emerging concerns of increased susceptibility to infection in children being investigated by NERVTAG, and the calls for an immediate nationwide move to remote education for all pupils in education settings that is coming from across all sectors and stakeholders. 

In December we asked for a delay in the opening of all schools and colleges to allow adequate time to set up mass testing, and to act as a ‘circuit breaker’. The decision was made regardless that the default position should be maintained – that schools and colleges remain open to all pupils except in exceptional circumstances. Today, Ofsted have supported the Government position. However, we believe that these are exceptional circumstances, that affect us all, throughout the UK. Once again we call for a unified response across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

On behalf of our Trade Union members NSEAD demands that this Government recognise their duty of care to all those working in education settings, children and young people, and their families. We call for honesty, clarity and timely communications of decisions that are based on intelligence - not ideology or economic trade-offs.

We are in full agreement with our fellow Trade Unions and TUC affiliates that the Government should follow SAGE recommendations. We join other Trade Unions in calling for a delay for the re-opening of all schools and colleges to provide a vital ‘circuit breaker’ for transmission, and the opportunity to review, revise and update Covid-security plans.  

Given the gravity of the threat to life, we advise members of our Trade Union working in early years, primary, secondary and college settings to insist that adequate, up to date mitigation measures are in place to ensure that they are not in danger.  NSEAD advises our members to ensure that their employers have completed revised risk assessments, in full consultation with staff and unions, taking full account of the additional risks associated with the Coronavirus. If a satisfactory revised Covid-security plan, with full staff consultation is not in place, our members should not be forced to return to work on-site.

We expect employers to fully discharge their responsibility for health and safety at work, and to recognise this acceleration in transmission to be a circumstance of danger which our members have reasonable belief to be serious and imminent as defined under Section 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. We maintain that our members should not be subject to detriment and/or dismissal if they exercise their right to refuse to return to a place of work that they reasonably believe to be dangerous. We appeal to employers to listen to their staff if they believe themselves to be in danger in their workplace, and to take appropriate action. We expect teachers’ contractual rights with regard to pay and other conditions of service must be adhered to at all times, including when planning for onsite or remote education provision. 

We ask our members to download and present this letter to their headteachers, letting us know via [javascript protected email address] their name and the name of their school if they do so. Our advice applies to our Full Trade Union members in any part of the UK.

NSEAD will continue to work alongside our TUC affiliate unions to support all those working and studying in education settings to be safe and protected in these exceptional times. 

Visit  Covid-19 advice for regular updates and guidance.