Teaching union instructs staff not to attend reopening South Yorkshire primaries

A teaching union has added its voice to calls for a multi-academy chain to reconsider its decision to reopen some of its schools in South Yorkshire.

Saturday, 30th May 2020, 2:58 pm
Updated Saturday, 30th May 2020, 2:58 pm

The National Education Union says the decision of the Astrea Academy Trust to reopen six of its primary schools in the region on Monday, June 1 should not go ahead.

They say incomplete risk assessments and a lack of insurance puts staff, pupils and their families at risk, and are instructing members not to go into work.

Sheffield district and branch joint secretary, Simon Murch, said: “We are living in a global pandemic, with the second-highest death toll in the world.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“The health and welfare of pupils, staff and their families must be the primary concern, not an arbitrary date.

“The fact effective track and trace is not in place, as the Independent SAGE Committee has said needs to be in place before wider opening of schools.

“In Sheffield, the current R rate is approaching 1.0 and the council’s expert, director of public health Greg Fell, has said it is not safe for a wider reopening of schools from 1st June.

“Therefore we cannot understand why Astrea Academy Trust are willing to put lives of their staff and pupils at immediate risk, particularly without the appropriate consultation of the risk assessment and having the adequate insurance policy in place.

Stock image.

“Our members have strongly indicated that they do not feel safe in returning.”

The six schools that Astrea Academy Trust plan to open are Atlas (Doncaster), Byron Wood (Sheffield), Intake (Doncaster), Highgate (Barnsley), Hillside (Doncaster) and Waverley (Doncaster).

Sheffield and Doncaster councils have already advised all schools to follow the advice of local public health officials and remain closed.

Yesterday, after criticism from the union Unison, a spokesperson for Astrea said: “We were disappointed to see these comments from Unison, particularly so given they have repeatedly declined our offers to engage and discuss our plans with them.

“We have had constructive discussions with all the other unions, sharing our risk assessments with them and talking through the protective measures we are taking.

“The safety of our children and our staff will always be our number one priority, and all of our preparations are driven by that. Risk assessments have now been completed for all employees and only those who are happy to come into school are doing so.

“We have invited Unison to attend a meeting with all unions on Monday 1 June to discuss the risk assessments of our first wave of schools that will open. We have yet to hear from them, but in the interests of their members, we very much hope Unison will join that discussion.”