Greenwich school staff call for halt to classes return

School trade unions have called for classes not to be reopened any further.

Greenwich branches of GMB, NEU and Unite make a unified call to local schools and the council to halt Monday’s wider opening of schools in the borough, after four prominent members of the Government’s own scientific advisory body broke ranks to express worries about the safety of this action.

On the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, Professor Horby agreed with Professors Edmunds and Farrar’s concerns, saying that SAGE has always been very clear that test, trace, isolate must be fully running BEFORE lockdown is relaxed. The system needs to be tracking most new cases, he said, following them up within 48 hours.
Professor Semple said: “Essentially, we’re lifting the lid on a boiling pan and it’s just going to bubble over… We need to get it down to simmer before we take the lid off, and it’s too early.”
He also said that levels of transmission and hospital admissions are still too high. “I think a political decision has been made to tie in with when school was due to start, were everything normal, but it’s not normal.”
Local unions in Greenwich also support these SAGE member’s concerns, on this worrying news Greenwich Branch President, Steve Oakes stated: “With the announcement by SAGE advisors today GMB Greenwich Branch cannot guarantee the safety of staff and students. We urge school leaders to reverse their decision to open on the 1st of June until it is safe to do so.”
After hearing the news, Greenwich NEU called on schools and the council to “Step back. Take your time” as the TUC #FiveTests for safety, would not be met by Monday. “We have been taking calls all weekend from anxious teachers and support staff not knowing what’s happening next week. A number of Health and Safety Reps have reported that Risk Assessments have not been shared with staff, and they are not confident schools are safe to open. Our message is clear, the TUC Five Tests have not been met, we are therefore asking Heads who are planning to open their gates to more children to pause, as safety must come first.” Kirstie Paton, Health and Safety Officer Greenwich NEU.

Danny Hoggan, Greenwich Unite Branch Secretary added his concerns on how this hasty move does not just place school staff, pupils and their families at more risk. “Unite believes that it’s too soon to open up schools further while Covid-19 cases are still at such high levels. Many Unite members have continued working in schools during the lockdown and they need to be kept safe. In addition, our public transport, especially buses, have limited capacity, so this would be a reckless move. Too many brave bus drivers have already lost their lives, and those still working will be put at even more risk. 60 Councils across England have instructed schools to keep the present status quo. Unite believes without a full and effective Test & Trace programme in place, schools cannot open more widely.”


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