Croydon teachers issue warning over re-opening of schools

Our education correspondent, GENE BRODIE, on a dire warning from the vast majority of the borough’s teachers over placing wealth before health

Teachers in the borough have written to the council to warn that they oppose any plans for a premature re-opening of their schools before the coronavirus emergency is properly resolved, and that they will not return to their schools until their union agrees it is safe to do so.

In a letter from the National Education Union branch to the Town Hall sent last week, and seen by Inside Croydon, they said, “We are aware that many of our families live in challenging circumstances and we want to return to school… as soon it is practicably safe to do so.

“We do not think we are anywhere near that point.”

The letter was signed by the union representatives from 72 of the borough’s schools.

The NEU has begun a campaign over the weekend urging public bodies and education authorities not to risk the health of the nation by re-opening schools too soon, when there is still a risk of infection being transmitted around the school, and back into families.

Big business appears to be applying pressure on the Conservative government to end the lockdown, and for schools to re-open so that their parents and guardians, many of whom are currently furloughed, might return to work from child care duties.

As one primary school teacher said today, “Don’t use teachers and their families to support wealth over health. We can’t social distance with a class of little infant school people. They don’t value washing their hands as much as they value hugging and holding hands.”

In Croydon, the majority of the borough’s schools are now outside the council’s direct control, having been effectively outsourced to the private sector through the academies system.

But the NEU still represents teachers in all schools, and in the union’s letter to Croydon Council, and sent to cabinet member Councillor Alisa Flemming, they wrote, “NEU members, along with other members of staff, are working hard in this crisis, at home and in school to meet the needs of our children and families and will continue to do so as long as this situation lasts…

“However, there has been some harmful speculation that schools may begin reopening in the next few weeks. In response to this the National Education Union has written to the Prime Minister, asking him to end that speculation and seeking assurances about the basis on which a proposal to reopen schools will be made.

“The NEU has expressed the view that it is not currently safe to reopen schools and, that any plans to do so should be based on evidence and modelling and fully discussed with trade unions representing school staff, nationally and locally.

“Croydon NEU fully support this position.

“Furthermore, we believe that when the time does come to reopen schools it should be properly planned, with staff returning first to consider what measures need to be put in place to welcome pupils back, and to support those young people who may well be traumatised and suffering a sense of dislocation.”

The NEU has produced their own five-point plan for determining when it will be safe to re-open schools.

The five tests call for much lower numbers of covid-19 cases, a national plan for social distancing, more testing, whole-school strategies to be in place to deal with the infection, and better protection for the vulnerable.

The National Education Union’s five tests for the re-opening of the country’s schools

Croydon NEU’s letter to the council said, “We have got this far through the crisis by everyone working constructively together and we hope that this will continue.

“Throughout this crisis we have followed the advice of our union, the NEU, and will continue to do so; we will be willing to return to school when our union tells us that it is safe to do so.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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