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Government ‘missing in action’ over its back-to-school campaign

THE government was accused today of being “missing in action” on its back-to-school campaign.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said both teaching union leaders and education professionals have been desperate to see children back in class.

She said: “The union leaders that I’m talking to all the time are as desperate as anyone to see children back in class. 

“They’re education professionals, they’re teachers, they really care as much as anybody about children’s futures, and it isn’t the responsibility of the trade unions, ultimately, to get children into the classroom.

“In terms of making preparations for their return, while headteachers, principals and school staff have been working really hard over the last few weeks of the summer holidays to make the schools safe, I think the government has been missing in action, to be quite honest.

“The guidance that’s been given to schools is ‘one size fits all;’ it doesn’t take account of the fact that a small school, perhaps in very constrained premises, will have to make different arrangements from a large inner-city school.

“There hasn’t been information for school leaders, so that they can’t plan what they might have to do if there was a sudden spike in the local infection rate, and the guidance that has come out I think has been contradictory, it’s been confusing, it came very late, shortly before the summer holidays.

“So I think better support for schools would have made the lives of staff much, much easier.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said the government’s back-to-school campaign needs to engage with families to let parents know what to do.

He said there were worries about the impact on the R-rate and transmission of coronavirus in schools.

“We want to engage with government, we want some more advice from government about what to do if the pressure on R comes — and what to do if we do need a plan B,” said Mr Whiteman.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the government has asked teachers to plan to be able to educate children from home if a school has to be closed due to an outbreak.


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