NASUWT bemoans ‘chaos and confusion' over open schools

Chris Keates has said that a lack of clarity about pupil and staff safety amid the coronavirus epidemic is putting teachers under ‘intolerable pressure’.

Keates, who heads the NASUWT union, said that the current government advice, which recommends keeping schools open, is causing increasing confusion and contributing to a ‘rising sense of panic’ as staff fear for their safety as more and more people get ill.

Headteachers have already said keeping schools open would become very challenging, with the National Education Union highlighting the pressure on vulnerable teachers, parents and other school and college staff. The NEU is advising members with underlying conditions to stay off work and is now urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to close schools.

Ofsted has been given permission by Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, to temporarily suspend all routine inspections of schools, further education, early years and social care providers.

Keates said in a statement: “Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a public announcement which underlined the deepening gravity of the situation with regard to COVID-19 and the national and global crisis we are facing. Unfortunately, his statement failed to give the clear and definitive directions necessary to enable individuals, organisations and services to be confident in the decisions they are making or to provide the reassurance and assurance that people need at this time.

“All of the announcements continue to be couched as guidance or advice which is simply serving to increase anxiety and uncertainty. The lack of clear information with regard to the steps to protect teachers, headteachers and other staff working in schools in the context of commentators constantly referring to the threats posed by children carrying COVID-19 is causing chaos and confusion and placing intolerable pressure on all staff in schools and their families.”

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