Unions: government must listen to Independent SAGE advice

Unions say the government should listen to the Independent SAGE advice published today that warns it is too early to open schools.

The organisation’s draft report Should Schools Reopen? says: “We believe that decisions on school opening should be guided by​ evidence of low levels of COVID-19 infections in the community and ​the ability to rapidly respond to new infections through​ a local test, track and isolate strategy. There is no clear evidence that these conditions are met. Until they are it is not safe to open schools on June 1​.”

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “We have been pressing for publication of the science for many weeks, so we strongly welcome this important intervention from Independent SAGE on the critical issue of school safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We would like to thank them for contributing so much to the public’s understanding of the risks involved in a wider opening of schools.

“Independent SAGE set two crucial conditions for the safe wider opening of schools: low levels of coronavirus in the community, and a robust track and trace system. Today, Sir David King said in answer to a question from the NEU that the chances of those being met by June 1 are ‘virtually nil’.

“The government must finally relent on its arbitrary target date of June 1, and accept it is simply not yet safe for the wider opening. Schools and families cannot go on with such uncertainty.”

UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “This is the evidence school staff and parents have been waiting for. Not only do these scientists say the government’s plans for schools in England are premature, they also suggest any risks to children would be halved by waiting a fortnight.

“Ministers need to heed these concerns, stop doggedly pushing schools to meet the arbitrary 1 June deadline, and ensure proper tracking and tracing is up and running first.

“There are real concerns the government is gambling with the safety of pupils, staff and the wider community.

“It makes no sense for ministers to push schools to open more widely in England, while other parts of the UK take a more considered approach.

“It’s time ministers took a step back and delayed any moves to increase the number of pupils in schools until it’s safer to do so.”

  • Like this story? Please support our work here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.