Teachers ‘forgotten’ in return to school, warns Yorkshire health and education leaders

Health and education leaders in Yorkshire have warned teachers have been ‘forgotten about’ in the return to school after the Government said it is ‘vitally important’ for children to return to class.

Tuesday, 25th August 2020, 6:00 am

The warning comes after Boris Johnson said it is “vitally important” children go back to school with the life chances of a generation at stake.

Mr Johnson’s message reiterated the UK’s four chief medical officers, who all signed a joint statement alongside deputy chief medical officers to reassure parents schools could mitigate risks during the pandemic on the weekend.

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Boris Johnson said it is “vitally important” children go back to school with the life chances of a generation at stake.

He said: “I feel teachers are being forgotten. Throughout this the Government has been reactive, but the approach needs to be proactive…in supporting our work force.

“Teachers are as critical in that workforce structure.

“We don’t have the number of teachers to be pulled in if the teaching workforce suddenly collapses – how is that going to impact on the children’s education for example – particularly at primary level?”

Professor Patel, a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, who has worked extensively with different BAME communities around health inequalities for over 20 years, stressed the need for extra support for teachers returning to schools in the UK’s coronavirus ‘hotspots’ and areas on the coronavirus watchlist.

Pictured, Professor Mahendra Patel, from the University of Bradford. Photo credit: other

He added there was concern for schools in Bradford as the city confirmed a further 66 cases on the weekend.

Prof Patel said: “We have to be careful that this is not one size fits all in terms of the messaging.

“For example we need a more focused message tailored to these different schools that we have, within those individual localities in Bradford where there is a high rate of coronavirus.

“Also where these hotspots are occurring that is going to reflect around the schools and we should be stepping up our vigilance within those areas more than the other areas.”

Fiona Spellman, CEO of the education charity Shine. Photo: JPI Media

Fiona Spellman, chief executive of Yorkshire-based education charity Shine, echoed Prof Patel’s call for clarity and support, and said the Government needed to gain the public’s trust after the handling of the recent A-level and GCSE results.

Ms Spellman said: “We are coming off the back of a period where A-level and GCSE results scenarios did not further trust necessarily in the key decision makers in education. The return to school is likely to be affected by the challenges around what has happened in recent weeks.

“Teachers absolutely want to provide an education to children and are deeply worried about the prospects for particularly disadvantaged children who have been out of education for some time.

“But having the appropriate plans in place to support safety in the workplace…is not an unreasonable request to make especially given that there has been a significant amount of time since the schools did close.”

– The NEU, the UK’s largest teaching union, said schools are being let down by the lack of a “plan B” as they prepare to reopen. It said more staff, extra teaching space and greater clarity on what to do if there is a spike in cases was needed for schools to reopen safely.

– Shadow education secretary Kate Green told ITV the responsibility of getting children back to school lay with ministers, not the trade unions, and that the government has failed to send a “strong and clear message” to reassure parents.

While NAHT union general secretary Paul Whiteman urged ministers to engage with families to help pupils return.

He said: “The Government’s back-to-school campaign has really got to engage with parents, let parents know what to do, and to make sure that parents know what to do around the school as well to make sure all of the measures being taken in school are as secure as they can be.”

It came as Dr Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said that the risk for teachers in schools is probably highest “between staff”.

Dr Harries also said it would be “unlikely” that there would be a scenario where all schools across the country would be forced to close again.


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