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Labour's Zarah Sultana supports workers' call for universities to move teaching online

LABOUR MP Zarah Sultana called on Warwick and Coventry universities today to move their teaching online and abandon plans for wider reopening of campuses following warnings from university workers.

In a letter to the vice-chancellors of Warwick and Coventry universities, the Coventry South MP said that the institutions must move classes online to prevent the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak that would put staff, students and the wider community at risk.

In her letter, Ms Sultana said there was “mounting evidence” that further measures were needed to protect the health of all concerned and that she supported the call “for all teaching to be online except in very limited circumstances.” 

University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady said: “Evidence shows that the default position for learning this term should be online, with exceptions only where this is not possible. 

“We urge Coventry and Warwick universities to listen to their local MP and abandon needless plans to force staff and students back onto campus.

“The health of university staff, students and the wider community is too important to gamble with. This is not business as usual.”

Ms Sultana’s letter comes as union members at both universities issued a joint statement calling on their institutions to back guidance from the UCU to make online teaching their default position. 

UCU said that its position was backed by the latest scientific evidence, following the release of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) report that raised concerns about the likelihood of increased cases on campus. 

On Wednesday, the government presented data that showed the infection rate among 17-to-21-year-olds was at 50 in 100,000 and increasing sharply. 

Countries with infection rates greater than 20 in 100,000 are removed from the safe-travel list and those who return from them are required to quarantine. 

And on Thursday, the government released guidance for reopening university campuses in England that suggested teaching outside, or opening doors and windows, throughout the winter to mitigate the risk of Covid-19. 

UCU described the guidance as “confusing, expensive and at times silly.”

The Office for National Statistics revealed today a 60 per cent rise in Covid-19 cases in England in the past week, prompting the National Education Union (NEU) to write to PM Boris Johnson about his failure to address school safety.

NEU general secretaries Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted said the government should follow their safety plan to ensure schools stay open and Covid-secure.

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