Boris Johnson’s plan to reopen primary schools next month have been described by a teaching union as “nothing short of reckless”.
As the prime minister announced a partial lifting of the coronavirus lockdown on Sunday night, he also laid out plans for a phased return of schools.
Reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils “may” be able to return on 1 June, Johnson said.
The PM also expressed his desire for secondary school pupils with exams next year to “get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays”, though he didn’t state a target date for this.
LONDON, ENGLAND – In this handout image provided by No 10 Downing Street, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson records a televised message to the nation released on May 10, 2020 in London, England. The Prime Minister announced the next stage in easing lockdown measures intended to curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by No 10 Downing Street via Getty Images)
He added “we will shortly be setting out detailed guidance on how to make it work in schools”.
However, the plans were heavily criticised by teaching unions on Sunday night.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) said: “We think that the announcement by the government that schools may reopen from 1 June with reception and years 1 and 6 is nothing short of reckless.
“Coronavirus continues to ravage communities in the UK and the rate of COVID-19 infection is still far too great for the wider opening of our schools.”
Slide 1 of 15: An agent (R) checks a customer’s body temperature at the entrance of an Esselunga supermarket in Milan’s Famagosta district on April 30, 2020, during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)Next SlideFull Screen1/15 SLIDES © Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images
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As nations struggle with the pandemic, here is a WHO advisory recommending standard precautionary measures that people can take to reduce the transmission of the illness.
All captions taken from the WHO website are as of May 4, 2020.
She added: “If schools are re-opened to blatant breaches of health and safety, we will strongly support our members who take steps to protect their pupils, their colleagues and their families.
“The worst outcome of any wider re-opening of schools is a second spike of COVID-19 infection.”
Patrick Roach, general secretary of the teachers’ union NASUWT, said the government’s announcement “risks thousands of schools rushing to make decisions about how best to safeguard the health and safety of children and staff in the absence of any clear national guidance”.
He added: “It is baffling that following the government’s decision to close all schools on public health grounds, that the government now expects individual schools to work out for themselves whether or not it will be safe to reopen on June 1 and potentially put at risk the health of children, staff and the public.”
© 2020 Getty Images ALTRINCHAM, ENGLAND – APRIL 08: Headteacher Bob Merrell tells a story to children of key workers take as they take part in school activities at Oldfield Brow Primary School on April 08, 2020 in Altrincham, England. The government announced the closure of UK schools from March 20 except for the children of key workers, such as NHS staff, and vulnerable pupils, such as those looked after by local authorities. The prime minister has said schools will remain closed “until further notice,” and many speculate they may not reopen until next term. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
It comes as a petition calling on parents to be given the option of not sending their children back to school gathered thousands of signatures in the wake of the PM’s speech.
The petition, on change.org, had gathered more than 166,000 signatures as of 9.45pm on Sunday.
It read: “So far there has been little assurance of what measures will be made to protect people and manage these risks. Even drop-off and collection could increase risk of transmission among parents.
“We need the government to be transparent with us and put things in place before we can consider placing our trust in this decision.”