Unions set out needs for safe reopening of schools in letter to Education Secretary

The TUC is today (Friday) publishing a joint statement that was sent yesterday evening to the Secretary of State for Education, on behalf of unions with members in the education sector, outlining the measures needed for the safe reopening of schools.

The statement from GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON and Unite sets out key principles and tests for the reopening of schools in England to ensure the safety of children, parents, staff and the communities they serve.

The principles and tests include (see notes for the full statement):

  • Safety and welfare of pupils and staff as the paramount principle
  • No increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a national test and trace scheme
  • A national Covid-19 education taskforce with government, unions and education stakeholders to agree statutory guidance for safe reopening of schools
  • Consideration of the specific needs of vulnerable students and families facing economic disadvantage
  • Additional resources for enhanced school cleaning, PPE and risk assessments
  • Local autonomy to close schools where testing indicates clusters of new covid-19 cases

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Parents and staff need full confidence that schools will be safe before any pupils return.

“The government must work closely with unions to agree a plan that meets the tests we have set out. Those discussions must include unions representing all school workers, not just teachers.

“The best way to do this is through a national taskforce for safe schools, with government, unions and education stakeholders. Schools must also get extra funds from government to pay for essential safety measures like PPE and additional cleaning.” Editors note

Full statement to the Secretary of State for Education:

Joint Statement on the Future Wider Reopening of Schools



This joint statement sets out a number of key principles and tests that the school workforce unions believe are essential to have in place before any plans are taken forward to reopen schools in England more widely in the coming period.

The statement is on behalf of the education unions GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON and Unite. The unions believe that the government should commit to work with the unions and others to agree a set of principles and tests to ensure that systems are in place in schools for the safety of children, parents/carers, staff and the wider communities they serve, in advance of any planned reopening.

The wider reopening of our schools will depend greatly on ensuring that families and carers are fully confident that allowing their children to return to school is safe. We do not believe that sufficient levels of confidence exist at this time. However, we believe that meeting the following principles and tests will help to achieve this.

Key principles

·       The wider reopening of our schools will underpin efforts to restart the UK economy, but it is vital that the paramount consideration on this issue is the safety and welfare of students, their families, staff and the wider public. Schools are already playing a key role in supporting the continuing education of all children within their school, children of key workers, vulnerable children, and the maintenance of essential public services and industries. This will continue to be a priority under any planned wider reopening. However, an unsafe return will only serve to break the bond of trust between school and home and will hinder a successful long-term economic recovery. Schools are rooted in their communities and are subject to the same pressures as everyone else.

·       Public health considerations and the serious risks of increasing transmission rates of Covid-19 must be the primary criteria governing the strategy for wider reopening of our schools. There are a number of key tests that will need to be met prior to any final decision on increasing pupil numbers to combat the risk of an increase in transmission rates resulting from a premature wider reopening.

·       The wider reopening of schools will require agreement by employers and trade unions on a range of procedures to make sure schools are safe environments for children, their families and carers, and staff. These will include robust risk assessments in advance of schools reopening and the conduct of these assessments will be supported through the provision of clear national advice and guidance.

·       A strategic approach will require government to immediately establish a national Covid-19 education taskforce comprising government, the education trade unions and other key stakeholders. The taskforce should develop statutory guidance and a strategic approach to reopening schools at the local level.

·       Wider reopening will need careful consideration to achieving equitable outcomes, including the impact on the mental health and living standards of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families, and BAME groups. Communities facing the greatest challenges before the pandemic are being hit hardest by Covid-19 and our schools must be fully supported by government including with additional financial support as required to help them.

Key tests

·       There must be clear scientific published evidence that trends in transmission of Covid-19 will not be adversely impacted by the reopening phase and that schools are also safe to reopen. Government should also be in a position to assess that pupils, parents/carers and staff are confident that this is the case.

·       There should no increase in pupil numbers until the full rollout of the government’s “test, trace and isolate policy” with testing targets consistently met over a number of weeks and case numbers falling consistently. A wider reopening before such a regime is in place would be completely unviable and would risk increased transmission levels, and ultimately deaths. 

·       A phased approach should be kept under constant review with no expectation that more pupils will return before the science shows that this is safe.

·       There must be agreement between government, employers and unions that operational practices and procedures in schools meet minimum quantifiable standards, in particular regarding social distancing, hygiene and cleansing practices, a secure supply of appropriate PPE to all school settings to be available where required, including clear guidance on situations were physical contact with pupils cannot be avoided, and regular robust risk assessments.

·      Enhanced school cleaning with additional resources subject to risk assessment and all necessary PPE to keep them safe.

·       A phased return of pupils will be necessary and this will need to meet tests that the most vulnerable pupils are being prioritised and that the phased approach supports maintaining a safe environment and reduced transmission levels.

·       Governing Bodies and School leadership teams should continue to make decisions to close schools in cases of local outbreaks/upsurge in Covid-19 cases. Schools will need local data as part of the government’s testing and tracing strategy. Consultation with the unions is an important step in this process as is ensuring that decisions are taken in a way that complies with all relevant national guidance and advice on these matters.

·       Clear strategies for safeguarding the most vulnerable pupils and staff, including those who have an underlying condition, are pregnant, over 70 or in the shielded group, and those who live with (or care for) anyone in these categories. These pupils and staff should be allowed to self-isolate or work from home.

·       An assessment of the impact of wider school reopening on other key public services, in particular public transport and the risks for increased transmission rates in that context.

·       A clear commitment to collective negotiations with school unions on reopening and instances of local Covid-19 outbreaks or increased transmission levels.

Support the Sixth form college strike rally- 27 February

Support the sixth form college strike rally- 27 February

This coming Thursday NEU members in sixth form colleges will continue strike action in furtherance of our trade dispute with the secretary of state.

To coincide with the continuing action, we are hosting a parliamentary square rally of our members and invite you all to join and support. The rally will include speakers like Kevin Courtney- Joint General Secretary, Debby Pope- Chicago Teachers Union, Jean Evanson- NEU National Executive member for post 16 and others.

Details of the rally:

If you cannot make on the day, it would be great if you can share the attached twitter and facebook card tagging your messages of solidarity @NEUnion #SaveOurColleges.

Vote Education: Super Saturday Chipping Barnet

Join the National Education Union (NEU) and School Cuts as we campaign for education in Chipping Barnet.

Meet us at High Barnet underground station (Northern Line) and we will be leafleting 11am-1pm, before getting together at the St John the Baptist Church, Church House, 2 Wood St, Barnet EN5 4BW for speeches and spot of lunch.

We need as many people to get involved as possible so invite your friends and family and spread the word on social media.

Facebook group here.

SaveOurColleges Action: Central London Thursday 17 October 2019 @ 1pm

Start: Thursday 17 October 2019 @ 1:00 PM

March and rally in London to hear a range of speakers. Assembly is at the Emmanuel Centre London 9 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 3DW at 1pm ,

and then a march to the Department for Education (DfE) Sanctuary Buildings 20 Great Smith Street London SW1P 3BT 

to present an outstanding invoice for the amount still needed for the sixth form sector not covered by the Prime Minister’s empty promises.

Education unions condemn arrest of Sudanese teachers’ leader

The arrest and disappearance of Yassin Hassan Abdelkarim, president of the Sudanese Teachers’ Committee on 28 June has drawn strong condemnation from the University and College Union (UCU) and International Solidarity Officers in the NEU teachers’ union. Paul Cottrell, acting General Secretary of UCU wrote to the Sudanese ambassador calling for Yassin’s immediate release after hearing that armed men stormed his house in the early hours of 28 June and took him away to an unknown location.

Sudanese activists are extremely concerned that he could face torture or death in detention at the hands of the brutal militias affiliated with the Transitional Military Council who have already killed over 100 protesters during attacks on peaceful sit-ins after 3 June. The Teachers Committee is an independent union which has played a key role organising teachers’ strikes in recent years.

UCU calls for immediate release of Yassin Hassan Abdelkarim, president of the Sudanese Teachers’ Committee #StandWithSudan https://t.co/DzJvmZVJaM

— UCU (@ucu) July 2, 2019

International Solidarity Officers in NEU adopted a resolution on 1 July also calling for Yassin’s release alongside other political prisoners. Huge protests gripped on Sudan on Sunday, following a call by the Sudanese Professionals Association and the opposition Forces of Freedom and Change for further peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience to demand the transfer of power to a civilian government from the ruling Military Council.

Statement by International Solidarity Officers, NEU

We, National Education Union International Solidarity Officers, condemn the arrest of our brother and colleague Yassin Hassan Abdulkarim President of the Teachers’ Committee in Sudan.

We support the struggle for democratic rights and civilian government in Sudan. We support the demonstrations called by the Sudanese Professional Association and note protestors have exercised non-violent civil disobedience in pursuit of their aims.

We condemn any use of force, including that used on June 3rd in Khartoum, against these peaceful protests.

In addition, the arbitrary arrest of civilians exercising their right to organise cannot be tolerated. We call on our government, trade unions and human rights organisations to demand the immediate release of Yassin Hassan Abdulkarim.

Original post.

Reinstate David Muritu (UCU)

David is UCU Branch Secretary, Sandwell College.
He was summarily dismissed for writing the word “racist” on a Prevent poster.

David was a member of our NATFHE branch at Harrow College when I was Branch Secretary.
He’s a committed trade unionist and hard-working Maths lecturer.

He has support from UCU and Angela Rayner (see link below) and please circulate.


We need real investment in adult learning, says TUC

Commenting on the publication today (Thursday) of the Augar Review into post-18 education and funding, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Everyone should have access to quality education and training whatever stage of life they are at. But our further education sector has been cut to the bone by years of devastating cuts.

“This review is right to call for more support for our colleges. And for maintenance grants to be brought back.

“The government must repair the damage austerity has caused and properly invest in adult learning.

“As the world of work changes working people will need to keep gaining new skills throughout their career.” Editors note

The TUC welcomes the commitment to fully funded education and training up to level 3 (A Levels or equivalent) for all ages

– The TUC is calling for:

  • A new lifelong learning account open to all adults incorporating fully funded skills entitlements, including an entitlement for all adults to achieve their first Level 3 qualification and a retraining entitlement to support career change for those already with a Level 3 qualification
  • A right to a mid-life skills/career review for workers and development of a high-quality skills/careers advice service for all adults
  • Reform of the right to request time to train so that it is changed to a new strengthened entitlement to paid time off for education and training
  • Government to set an ambition to increase investment in both workforce and out of work training to the EU average within the next five years
  • TUC is also supporting the current employer/union led Love Colleges campaign, which is calling for:
    • 1. Increased funding for colleges and adult skills. 
    • 2. A new Level 3 entitlement for all adults.
    • 3. Ring-fenced funding for a fair pay deal for college staff

Education under a Labour Government

From fighting cuts to Labour’s New Education Service. Join us for talks from teachers, National Education Union activists and organisers on the challenges we face today and the opportunities a Labour Government can provide for the future. 

TUESDAY 18 JUNE, 6.30pm

Speakers: Martin Powell Davies, Maryam Asaria, Jumbo Chan and David Pinto-Duschinsky.
at the Old Hendon Ex-Service Men’s Club Ltd, 12 Heriot Road, NW4 2DG
Register here at Eventbrite. Organised by Hendon CLP and Barnet Momentum

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