With concerns mounting about the rapid spread of the new strain of Covid - 19 particularly amongst the school age population the call to move to online learning for all pupils except those deemed to be vulnerable or those of keyworkers, has come from many quarters including those trade unions who represent Headteachers, teachers and support staff in schools.

Union members have been advised not to return to work in schools for the next two weeks because despite government rhetoric to the contrary, schools are not safe workplaces at present for staff or for pupils and most importantly, are shown to be a source of increased transmission of the new strain of the virus.

This is not a call to strike. It is not a call to stop working and neglect pupils education. It is a call to underline the risks of transmission of the virus into communities which the schools serve.

As the statement released by the National Education Union notes: “We now know that SAGE also called for all schools to be closed in January to keep the R rate below 1. This advice was issued on 22 December and ministers have done little to follow it. The science now tells us that, although children largely do not become ill with Covid-19, they spread it to others.

"To their parents, their families and into their communities.

"That is why SAGE wanted schools to close – as a way of keeping the public safe.”

The decision to call for school closure has been made very reluctantly because those who work in schools do so because they believe in young people’s right to a high quality, safe and secure learning environment.

But they also need to feel safe and to know they are not putting their own families and the wider community at risk of potential harm. The Prime Minister has suggested that tougher restrictions may have to be imposed in the coming weeks and has not ruled out school closure.

To return pupils to school now for a week or so, only to have to them move to online learning later will be far more disruptive and by then, the impact of schools having remained fully open, against scientific advice, will be seen in the rise in case numbers and likely increased deaths within our communities.

ALISON CHOWN

NEU member and former teacher Weymouth