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Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed plans last weekend to let the first children back to school at the start of next month. The move would apply to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils but the move faced backlash from teaching unions.
However this morning, The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), which hwas 19,000 members, backed the government’s plans.
Union bosses met the government’s chief medical officer and chief scientific officer on Friday.
In a statement, ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton said: “We were reassured by the feedback we received from government scientific advisers on Friday, and we continue to support our members in preparing for the reopening of schools from June 1.
But Mr Barton said there were several aspects of the plans which were of concern.
Some schools are set to reopen on Monday 1st June. (Image: Getty)
PM Boris Johnson announced plans to reopen schools last week. (Image: Getty)
He added: “There are several aspects of the detail which still concern us, particularly around the idea of schools being asked to bring all eligible primary children full-time from June 1.
“Given the short timeframe and the extensive preparations that must be made, we are asking the government to recognise that many schools may find this impossible, and to be more flexible.
“If schools decide they are not ready to open at that time, or that they need to take a more phased approach such as using rotas, we will back them up on that decision.”
He stressed that the government will only make the final decision on whether to press ahead with the reopening of schools when it reviews the latest science on May 28th.
Many students are learning at home. (Image: Getty)
He added: “If the evidence does not support this decision at that time, it will be delayed.”
“We will continue to discuss the detail of the government approach with ministers and officials constructively and with a view to ensuring that it is as clear and safe as possible to reopen schools from the agreed date.”
However, despite this, mainstream teachers’ unions say they have been left with many unanswered questions about the evidence underpinning the decision.
Patrick Roach, general secretary of the teaching union NASUWT, said they had been left with “more questions than answers” after the briefing.
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Gavin Williamson has said he is happy to speak to any concerned unions. (Image: Getty)
He said: “The meeting that we had frankly was not conclusive in relation to the evidence base to support the proposal for the wider reopening of schools.
That evidence is flimsy at best, in terms of the international comparisons being used.”
Dr Roach added: “Nothing in the meeting provided reassurance for the deeply worried and anxious school workforce.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union , said: “We are pleased, but very many questions that we asked were not addressed in the time available.
Many final year secondary pupils said their final goodbye’s to friends in March. (Image: Getty)
“We think it is very important that all the questions are answered and in public written form. This is important for transparency and for other scientists to comment on.”
Mr Courtney said that Sir Patrick Vallance told the union that they would prioritise publishing information and papers from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
He added that the education unions were told there is still “a lot of uncertainty” about the science.
“For example, we were told children’s likelihood to transmit Covid-19 is not more than adults but only that it may be less than adults,” Mr Courtney said.
Schools closed for most pupils on March 20th. (Image: Getty)
But deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said the likelihood of anyone having coronavirus in a primary school was very small and diminishing.
She added: “If currently we have, say, two or three in a thousand of our population with infection, in the proposed time frame coming forward in the next couple of weeks that’s likely to halve.
“There’s a lot of anxiety I think around this but people need to think through in an average infant school with 100 children, the likelihood of anybody having this disease is very small and diminishing with time, so I think we just need to keep that in perspective.”