Teacher unions are angry and will meet with scientific experts over the June 1 start day, which has been announced in spite of fears over Covid-19.
Downing Street is determined to have schools open in phases, on June 1, and have warned of the dangers for children and their education after the prolonged closure of schools.
The education unions believe the government’s plan to see reception, years 1 and 6 returning to school on June 1 is “reckless”, and schools have not had enough time to prepare for this.
The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, writing in the Daily Mail, said that teachers need to be prepared to “do their duty” and work with the plans of the government.
The official spokesman for Boris Johnson said that although safety comes first, we must be cognizant of the damage to the education of children by keeping them out of the classroom.
On Friday there is a meeting of the unions with the chief scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, and the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, when they will discuss the scientific advice that has led to these decisions. Gavin Williamson will attend this meeting too.
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A spokesman for the Prime Minister said they were giving the unions an opportunity to speak directly to the experts. He noted that the education secretary has had contact with headteachers and the teacher unions through the entire process, and the government wants to continue their work together so children can return to schools safely. The reopening of schools will not happen overnight, and schools will need to put in place a range of measures to ensure we reduce transmission.
In response to a question about teachers having personal protective equipment, the spokesman said that although face covers were recommended in enclosed spaces, such as public transport, they would only be necessary for teachers who were giving close personal care to a child who exhibited symptoms.
Downing Street wants parents to be more productive, and schools reopening would assist in this.
Labour and Liberal Democrats have both made criticisms of the plan. The shadow education secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, has stated that safety conditions should be established before setting a start date. She said the government needs to work with the unions collaboratively, to create the conditions needed so that schools can have a safe return. Schools need these safety conditions to be met before they reopen.