Education union tells school staff it is ‘unsafe’ to return to work

Primary pupil

The National Education Union has told all its members that is believes it is unsafe for them to return to schools.

It is understood that “preliminary steps in legal proceedings against the Department for Education” have also been taken.

The NEU has written to all employers and all head teachers and principals giving the same advice and asking them to make preparations for a move to remote learning instead.

The NEU advice applies to all primary and secondary schools, special schools and SEND settings, colleges and early years settings.

It does not include in-school learning for vulnerable pupils and children of key workers which is advised to still take place.

The NEU tells staff to advise head teachers or principals that they will not be attending the workplace but will be available to work remotely from home.  A model letter has been provided which asserts the legal right to be protected against any detrimental action by an employer.

The NEU advice applies for at least the first two weeks of term, the same period for which secondary schools and some primary schools have already been instructed by Government to move to remote learning

The NEU says: “This is a step we take with huge reluctance. But this Government is failing to protect children, their families and our communities. And it is failing in its duty of care to education staff who have worked tirelessly to look after children during this pandemic.

“In December, we called for schools to be closed for two weeks at the start of the spring term in order to provide a circuit breaker and lower infections. Our view was ignored but our call has become even more urgent as the new variant of Covid-19 is spreading far more quickly than in March.

“We now know that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (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.

“If Government does not act to follow the science, we must.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

On December 30 Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the majority of primary schools in England will reopen on January 4.

Mr Williamson said a ‘small number of areas where infection rates are highest’ will only open for vulnerable children and those whose parents are critical workers.

A list of those areas includes Dartford, Gravesham, Sevenoaks, Medway, Ashford, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells and Swale. Measures will be under regular review with the first taking place on January 18.

Thanet primary schools are due to open as originally planned on Monday (January 4), despite being in Tier 4 and having a higher covid rate per 100,000 than Tunbridge Wells where school opening has been delayed.

The NEU action hopes to force a government U Turn but has not done so yet. It is understood a meeting is taking place this evening to discuss the issue.

The NEU has launched a petition, signed by 20,000 people so far, which can be found here

Schools, including St George’s in Broadstairs, have told parents that “no fines will be issued for pupils not attending school” although the school is required to follow government attendance codes.

Newington head teacher Cliff Stokes has also issued a news letter to say all covid measures will be in place but tells parents: “I am not in a position to determine whether children will be safe in school, that is your choice and we will, of course, support you with whatever decision you make on behalf of your children.”


  1. Parents know best, not government ministers.headmasters know best not government ministers. Teachers know best not government ministers. Keep safe

    • Sadly, that’s not always the case.
      For example, there are far too many parents only too willing to take their children out of school for holiday in Disney World – even in the child’s SATs year.

  2. Lazy Trades Unionists trying to avoid doing the work again , but still expecting to be paid. What reprehensible individuals these people are.

    • The teachers are right to denur at being placed once more in a risky and uncertain situation.

      Parents should keep their children at home. Education even in these circumstances does not depend on computers.

    • Under the plan teachers will be working just remotely so the schools will still be teaching – and open to key worker and vulnerable students. As a result they will be protecting the NHS and the community from further spread of Covid as QEQM is already struggling

    • no doubt these teachers will not use shops, public transport or the health services. Nor will the children either I assume. Or are teachers somehow worth more than those that work on through this pandemic?

  3. What a dreadful situation to be in. For teachers parents and children. We can all see the spiralling figures. We all know that schools are spreading centres.
    It is abysmal that the government has not instructed schools to stay closed after Christmas. De jure, the schools will be open. But de facto they will largely or completely closed.
    So parents don’t know if they need to arrange child care or not; teachers don’t know if they’ll be turning up to school on Monday morning or planning Zoom lessons and web-based teaching.
    I can see that the government is in a pickle. They’ve made endless “U” turns during this pandemic. I expect they are loathe to do yet another one.

  4. Not just lazy Trades Unionists:
    “The leaders of the London boroughs where primary schools have been asked to return on Monday have written to education secretary Gavin Williamson asking him to reverse this decision, which they say is “not supported by the evidence”.”
    Lazy so-and-so.
    Fancy being concerned with the health and well being of students and teachers!

  5. The Government needs to make another u-turn asap so students and parents know not to start school on Monday but keep safe at home. We all know the schools are spreading covid and with many teachers going down with this virus the decision needs to be made now.

  6. Just cancel the whole academic year and start again in September. The choices are beat the virus or keep messing about with this stupid tier system with all the confusion it causes. Strict lockdowns work just look at China

  7. It’s not rocket science shorten the summer half term and the summer six weeks holidays to half or much more and have the time off now . That way kids don’t loose learning. this should of been planned for last year as they new this winter would be bad . Fancy predicting a second wave last spring for this winter and not rescheduling summer holidays differently to fit around loss learning time in the winter . At least everyone would of known where they were at – longerwinter hols shorter or no summer hols t

  8. so thanks to the trade union’s scientific and legal advisors, no full scale return to traditional teaching until the spring.

    Full time Teaching will return but it wont be the same, 50+ pupil classes, neighbouring schools amalgamated into one super school, teaching out of portacabins on school grounds, longer opening hours, longer teaching hours, teaching staff including management without the “can do attitude” sidelined, summer holidays cancelled. pay freeze etc.

    Everyone knows what happens to unhelpful unions and their members, seen it all before

  9. So the trade unions are running our country’s education, everyone knows what happened to unions & their members when they get ahead of themselves.

  10. The good news is that the survival rate for this virus is over 99.7 per cent. The virus has not been isolated and any educated person should wonder at that, and at the many false positives in the testing system. Anyone who believes depriving children of a school life is a solution is not being honest about the damage this would cause. What happens when other viruses come and go, and mutate, in coming years? Will we continue to shut down the whole country, businesses (any surviving that is), schools old people’s and specialist care units, and continue to not treat non virus conditions io the NHS? Imagine that dystopian future, as that’s what some are creating now. Would you welcome continual yearly lockdowns? What would happen to the country and it’s people, and the young? Only a very few very wealthy people could sustain that one, and they’d flee to tax shelter countries away from the destruction and state control left behind. Let’s actually imagine that possibility and how you would live in it. Vaccines are not the universal saviour in a world of ever changing viruses and mutations and the statements that not having the second dose of the Pfizer one is now OK, are very intriguing.

  11. Do you just cut and paste the same nonsense?
    The survival rate is NOT 99.7%. You’re quoting the % of the whole population who haven’t died of C19 – even when they haven’t had it!
    And the ONLY reason many people haven’t had it is because many of us are to a greater or lesser extent practising social isolation, including not sending our children to school.
    No one wants to see lives and livelihoods disrupted, but we’re in the middle of the worst pandemic for 100 years. If our government, instead of shilly shallying about in late Feb/early March last year had imposed a rigorous lockdown (like New Zealand) then outcomes would have been much better.
    As for “not having the second dose of the Pfizer one is now OK” – that is not the case. Again you are misquoting to suit your neoliberal narrative.
    What’s being adopted is a delay of a month or two in administering the second dose so as many people as possible get a first dose and some level of protection, thus bringing closer the time when we can return to something more resembling normality – an outcome I think we both agree on.

    • No I don’t Andrew. I have a brain. I don’t need to cut and paste. I assume you will be happy to lockdown every year for the rest of your life as viruses will come and go and mutate every year of your lifetime, and current vaccines will be of limited or no use.

  12. First Boris made the “people” the villains and blamed their actions – although failed to blame those close to him for breaking rules – he accused NHS workers for misusing PPE, he blames scientists for mixed messages… and now he is targeting the teachers.

    Next he will blame the children.

    It’s his leadership and his fault. All of his mess.

    He waits and waits and ignores all options until only one options remains and then says he has no choice: waiting for all avenues to close will do this.

    He was a mess on Marr. No idea. Doesn’t even read his own studies he orders.

    A new strain was always coming and it was always gonna be better At spreading…

    His incompetence knows no bounds. Shame on any of us that voted for him.

    • The problem for Boris is that when he stood for PM the image he conjured up was like the graphic on the front of the Daiky Express: a sort of Richard the Lionheart/ St George, whose task it was to deliver the English from those pesky foreign Johnnys.
      Then along came Coronavirus. True, no one in any government was expecting it (despite scientists the world over predicting it). But some governments were better able to cope than others.
      And when it comes to the Western World, England is scraping around the bottom along with the USA.
      The reason is not hard to see: a large chunk of the tory party is in thrall to some of the back benches, the 1922 committee, the ERG and so on. The most important thing for them is that, at all cost (including lives) the impact on the economy and hence income streams to powerful (tory funding) industrialists must not on any account be disrupted.
      So, poor Boris is between a rock and a hard place. If he listens to his back benchers, 100,000s will die. If he listens to the science, IDS and R-M will see their huge incomes take a battering.
      Poor chap. He’s already alienated half of his family.
      I bet he wishes he’d stuck to fabricating news stories.

  13. Boris this, Boris that… Do people think that Corbyn would of done a better job!?! Do you think Boris is sat watching Netflix in the evening like the most of the population are doing!!No he’s not, He is doing his best.

    • Like it or not, Boris is PM. Not Jeremy Corbyn, nor Keir Starmer.
      And yes, it’s quite conceivable that they could have done better. The PMs of New Zealand and Australia have done much, much better.
      Where was Boris during the first COBRA meetings discussing the pandemic?
      Why did he not censure Dominic Cummins for seriously breaking the rules?
      Why is he performing so many “U” turns?
      Why does he keep saying he’s following the science, when clearly he’s following IDS?
      The chap’s an abysmal failure. And a recent poll of voters thinks the same.

    • “Corbyn would *have* done a better job!?”
      “think Boris is *sitting* watching Netflix”
      Reassuring to think that it’s not just today’s students that struggle with English.

  14. Where is Phyllis Quot bullying? She is simply correcting some grammatical errors. Naturally, your feelings are hurt.

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