The government continues with it’s catastrophic blundering in response to the rapid spread of the new variant of coronavirus. Despite Priti Patel claiming that they have always been ‘ahead of the curve’ the reality is that they have continually tailed behind it. This is no surprise, their priority from the outset has been the needs of businesses and the economy, not saving lives. The price has been tens of thousands of people losing their lives unnecessarily.
As the coronavirus first hit in March it was teachers, headteachers and parents who were ahead of the curve in closing their schools, the government eventually caught up and closed them all.
As the cases started to rise again in the Autumn and the government introduced their half hearted tiers system they steadfastly refused to close the schools and universities, despite mounting evidence that some of the fastest growing infection rates were to be found amongst young people.
As the rate of the virus spirals out of control the government announced that Secondary Schools around the country would have a 2 week break before returning on the 18th January. They also announced that some Primary Schools in London and the South East would remain closed. The method of selection was impenetrable, with some London boroughs with similar levels of cases being told to remain open.
NEU activists swung into action.
Reps meetings were called and preparations were being made for staff to use Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act to refuse to go into school for their own safety. As local politicians swung in behind them the government folded, once again retreating in the face of resistance rather than face open defiance.
The NEU is calling for all teaching to move online at the moment. Today the NEU has announced that it will issue guidance to it’s members informing them of their legal right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions.
The next few days will be critical – will the government retreat again and close Primary as well as Secondary schools, or will it be left to the teachers to close the schools to keep our children and communities safe.
As Fran Heathcote, PCS president says “It is really important that we show our full support to the teachers, and the associated unions. This is about safety and it’s about all of us. We need to stand together to protect teachers, protect children and protect our communities. In full solidarity.”
As the Coronavirus and the economic crisis bite we will need to build the fighting strength of our unions to stand up for our members and our communities.
If the teachers have to take action to close our schools, let’s make sure they get the maximum solidarity.