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13 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Unions urge ministers to delay school opening plans or risk virus spread

By Samuel Horti

Nine trade unions representing school leaders, teachers and support staff have urged the government to delay the planned opening of primary schools on 1 June, saying that failure to do so would pose a “risk to our society”.

In a joint statement published by the Trades Unions Congress, the unions warned of a “lack of understanding about the dangers of the spread of coronavirus in schools”, and from schools into the wider community.

“We call on the government to step back from 1 June and work with us to create the conditions for a safe return to schools based on the principles and tests we have set out,” they said.

Staff would not be protected by social distancing rules under government plans, and having 15 children in the class, the maximum size outlined by ministers, would mean “classrooms of four and five-year-olds could become sources of Covid-19 transmission and spread”, they said.

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“We do not think that the government should be posing this level of risk to our society.”

Earlier, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that both medical and scientific experts had told the government that “it’s the right time to start bringing schools back in a phased and controlled manner”.