Union calls for schools and colleges to close during lockdown

The NEU is calling for schools and colleges to close in the national lockdown.

The NEU is calling for schools and colleges to close in the national lockdown. - Credit: © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The National Education Union (NEU) is calling for schools and colleges to be locked down to protect children and staff amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

The trade union says the latest lockdown will not be as effective unless schools and colleges are included.

Union leaders say schools should remain open to the children of key workers and vulnerable children, while rotas should be introduced at the end of the lockdown period. Jonathan Reddiford, chairman of NEU North Somerset, said: “It is clear from Office for National Statistics (ONS) data that schools are an engine for virus transmission.

“It would be self-defeating for the Government to impose a national lockdown, while ignoring the role of schools as a major contributor to the spread of the virus. Such a lockdown would impose pain on the whole community – but not be as effective as it could be if schools were included. Ignoring the role of schools and colleges in the spread of the virus is likely to lead to the need for even longer lockdowns in future.”

The latest figures from the ONS estimate that one per cent of primary pupils and two per cent of secondary pupils have the virus and that these levels have increased dramatically since wider opening in September. NEU analysis of ONS figures shows virus levels are now nine times higher among primary pupils and an astonishing 50 times higher among secondary pupils.

The union called for a two-week circuit break over half term to include schools, which the Wales Government and the Northern Ireland assembly did, while the Government in Westminster did not. Union leaders say stricter measures are now called for and have warned the Government not to make the same mistake.

Mr Reddiford added: “The Government should include all schools in proposals for an immediate national lockdown and as a minimum be preparing for school rotas at the end of that period, including by actually meeting its promise to deliver broadband and equipment to those children who do not have them.

“It is also vital that the Government ensures proper financial support for all those affected by lockdown including crucial supply teachers and other staff.”

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