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.”
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.”