Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1105/31462
The Socialist 14 October 2020 |
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National Education Union must launch action now
Teacher primary school classroom US Department of Education (Creative Commons) (Click to enlarge)
Jane Nellist, Coventry NEU
With growing case numbers in schools for both staff and students, which in turn leads to high numbers isolating, the National Education Union (NEU) urgently needs to make a stand.
We want the education of our students to be paramount, but we are not prepared to put at risk the health and safety of staff, students and communities. We need to force the government to act now.
Covid-19 will not be controlled by hope and good intentions. It needs a strong union that is ready to use all of its democratic power - including ballots for strike action. Calling all-members meetings in schools to discuss the situation should be a vital immediate step.
We have some of the largest class sizes, and the smallest classrooms, in Europe. Social distancing has been impossible to maintain in many schools. Cramped corridors, the lack of toilet facilities, and windows that don't give sufficient ventilation add to the problems.
The full reopening of schools in September was always going to create huge risks, especially without the NEU's 'five tests' firmly met - much lower case numbers, national plans for social distancing, fully functional test and trace, whole-school containment strategies, and protection for the vulnerable.
With no 'Plan B' and no confidence in a government that was reeling from one disaster to another, it was a critical error on the part of the union's leadership not to stand firm. The NEU nationally should have made clear we would refuse to comply with a full return, unless full resources and a defined trigger for 'blended learning' and reduced class numbers were in place.