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Monday, June 27, 2022

National Education Union President for Bradford District says government isn’t doing enough to keep pupils safe

The Government has ensured that schools will have “flexibility” when they reopen after the New Year, but Bradford education union President says that we have to “seriously think whether it is safe to reopen in January”.

As the Omicron variant sweeps Britain, the government is committed to keeping schools open in the New Year by offering flexibility on when older kids can return to class.

However, the president of the National Education Union for Bradford District thinks that if Omicron cases continue to rise then pupils may need to go back to learning from home.

The Apprenticeships and Skills Minister under the Department for Education, Alex Burghart, announced in the House of Commons yesterday that secondary schools will be given some flexibility on when pupils should return after the Christmas break amid concerns over Covid cases.

Education minister Alex Burghart.

Mr Burghart said: “The classroom is the very best place for children and young people’s development. Protecting education continues to be our absolute priority.

“We are offering a small amount of flexibility for the time at which schools can go back to make sure that this testing can take place.

“We are offering additional funding to make sure that this testing is available.

“I can reassure the House that schools have and will have all of the testing facilities that they require.”

From next week, parents of twelve to fifteen-year-olds will be able to book their children in for a second jab if they received their first vaccine over three months ago.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference yesterday, the prime minister said: “From Monday, 12 to 15-year-olds can book in for a second jab.

“We know how crucial it is to keep children in school, so let’s all make sure our children and young people are vaccinated before they go back next term.”

Ian Murch, president of the National Education Union for Bradford District.

However, the President of Bradford District National Education Union, Ian Murch, says that the Government isn’t providing enough guidance to keep children and staff safe in school currently and that leaders will have to “seriously look at whether it is safe to reopen in January” when more data and information comes out about the Omicron variant.

In Bradford, nursery and reception classes at All Saints CofE Primary School are closed this week after several Early Years staff testing positive for the virus.

Mr Murch said: “With only a few days left in the term, schools are unlikely to close before Christmas, but we will have to look seriously at whether it is safe to reopen them in January when we will know a bit more about how serious the Omicron variant is.

“What we do know about how fast it spreads, in a school, where they are not operating in bubbles or social distancing, it will spread incredibly quickly.

“The union is disappointed that the government isn’t recommending every possible safety measure in schools to try and keep them open.

“The most they are saying about the end of year events is to ‘be careful’, without explaining what that means. Do you really want a couple of hundred people in a room in the current situation? I would have thought not.”

He added: “If we’re talking about Bradford in particular, there is a strong reason for being worried. In some parts of the district, there are low levels of vaccination uptake, people are much more vulnerable.

“I urge people to get vaccinated and to get their children vaccinated if they haven’t already done so.”

Speaking about the potential impact returning to online teaching will have on children in the district, Mr Murch said: “People know how to do it [online teaching] now.  It will get off to a better start than it did before.

“It is not ideal for a child’s learning or mental health but if you are doing it to save lives, then we need to do it.

“If the Government carried through on their initial promise of delivering a laptop to every child that didn’t have one, we would be in a much better position.

“We don’t know how long the pandemic is going to go on for, and how many variants there will be, so we have to think about making it possible for every child to learn at home.”

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