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To all Local and Negotiating Secretaries in England

cc National Executive Members in England and Regional Organisers

Dear Colleagues

Following the Prime Minister’s statement last night, the NASUWT placed a statement onto the website once again setting out the Union’s expectations on the opening of schools, making clear that schools should not relax the restrictions on opening until it is safe to do so and that the Union is clear that no teacher or child should be expected to go into a school that is not safe and until it can be demonstrated that it is safe to do so.

Today the Government and the DfE will be publishing guidance, following on from the Prime Minister’s statement. We will be analysing the documents published and will provide further information to members and activists as soon as our review is complete.

It is understandable that many members are anxious about their health and safety and will be seeking reassurances from the Union at this time of uncertainty. The NASUWT is the only Union to have made clear that schools should not be re-opening before September at the earliest as we believe that there is extensive planning that schools need to be doing, which cannot be done in haste, if the health and welfare of staff and pupils are to be protected.

Below are some of the queries received overnight by the national Union and the responses we have been giving. You may find these useful when speaking to members.

Best regards

Dr Patrick Roach

General Secretary

NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union

Will teachers with underlying health conditions or shielding have to go into school on 1st June?

The Prime Minister’s statement on 10th May did not make any definitive statements about schools opening on 1st June. A document is due to be published by the Government today giving more detail about what is proposed and the NASUWT will be reviewing this and issuing further advice and guidance to members.  

Teachers and schools should not be making any changes to the current arrangements at this time. Nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement indicated a change in the current advice for teachers who are pregnant, have underlying health conditions or are shielding. The position will be clearer when the Government’s document is published. The NASUWT is, however, clear that no teacher should be expected to go into a school that is not safe and that teachers’ health and welfare is the over-riding priority.

Will schools be required to maintain social distancing and will PPE be provided?

Until the Government’s document providing more details on the Prime Minister’s statement is published, it is unclear what the expectations are on schools. The NASUWT will be reviewing that document and providing further advice and guidance to members in the light of this. The NASUWT repeatedly has raised the issue of the provision of PPE for teachers and will continue to do so.

Do I have the right to refuse to  go back to school if I do not feel it is safe?

Once it becomes clear what exactly is being proposed from 1st June, the NASUWT will be issuing further advice and guidance to members. The Union is absolutely clear that no teacher should be expected to go into a school that is not safe. If members feel unsafe at any time, not just after 1st June, then they should share with the NASUWT their concerns and the Union will advise whether their school is meeting its obligations under the HASAW Act to provide a safe working environment and fulfilling the rights and entitlements given to individual workers under the Act.

Will the Union be taking action to protect members and will we be surveyed about our views?

The NASUWT will always take appropriate action to protect the interests of members individually and collectively. The Union has been surveying members on a regular basis since the lockdown requirements came into effect on 23rd March and will continue to do so.

I am a year 1 teacher but my own children are not and will not be back in school. How do I go back when I have childcare responsibilities?

This will be a key issue the NASUWT will be raising with the DfE as this will be a critical issue with regard to the availability of staff if a school proposes to open after 1st June. Further advice will be issued to members on this. 

I live in Wales but I teach in England - my children won’t be back at school on 1st June but I may be asked to go back. What do I do?

The NASUWT will be raising with the DfE the difficult position of teachers who work across the border when Wales remains in lockdown but their school in England has the expectation that that teacher will come into work. We will issue further information to members once this point has been pursued with the DfE.

I work in a very large infant school - this will equate to 240 pupils. How can that be safe?

It is difficult to see how any school could meet social distancing requirements if all pupils were to be brought into school. The over-riding priority must be the safety of staff and pupils and therefore any plans drawn up by the school will need to demonstrate how social distancing will be maintained at all times to seek to ensure that pupils and staff are safe. The NASUWT has issued a checklist for schools which should be applied by members to any proposals for opening the school. This can be found on the Union’s website.

Are nurseries included in 1st June return?

Until the Government’s document providing more details on the Prime Minister’s statement is published, together with the DfE’s guidance, it is not possible to provide a definitive answer to this. As soon as the document is published, and the NASUWT has reviewed it, we will issue further advice and guidance to members.

There have been a few members who have said they want to go back to work. I feel it is safe to go back into school. I am concerned about the educational progress of the children I teach.  If I want to go back why shouldn’t I?

The NASUWT has not set any definitive date for the re-opening of schools but has been clear, that in the interests of safety plans for re-opening it cannot be rushed and September is likely to be the earliest schools could be ready. The Union has set out a series of tests that will need to be applied to any proposals to open schools to ensure the health, safety and welfare of pupils, emphasising that planning for opening safely cannot be done overnight. The Union appreciates that all teachers are very concerned about their pupils and the impact of lockdown on their educational progress. The Union has regularly surveyed its members’ opinions on these issues and the overwhelming majority of teachers recognise that when dealing with a pandemic in which thousands of people are dying the over-riding priority must be the public health issues.