‘Boris Johnson, stop endangering students’, teachers’ lives


This 23 October 2020 video from Britain says about itself:

Sky’s Thomas Moore looks at why nearly half a million cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the UK in the last week.

By Ceren Sagir in Britain, November 1, 2020:

‘Close down classrooms or put more lives at risk’

Education unions blast government’s fatal flaw of keeping schools, colleges and universities open during the upcoming national lockdown

TEACHERS warned the Tories today to close schools and colleges during the upcoming national lockdown — or risk the strategy’s failure.

Classrooms will remain open while England’s pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail will close for four weeks from Thursday.

During an online National Education Union (NEU) rally, NEU national executive member Gawain Little said that the lockdown plans are inadequate and show how little the government cares about protecting people’s safety.

Former chief scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport warned today that keeping schools open could mean that infection rates stay higher for longer, compared with when nationwide restrictions were first introduced in March.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove admitted that the new lockdown could be extended beyond December 2 if infection rates do not significantly fall, but suggested that the government still wanted to keep pupils in classrooms despite this risk.

The NEU called for the government to close schools and colleges with the introduction of the new restrictions, saying that not doing so will render the measures less effective.

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “We think it is a real missed opportunity. It’s another half measure and, without school closures as part of it, it is unlikely to have the effect that the Prime Minister wants.”

The union also called for a rota system to be introduced at the end of the lockdown in order to prevent large numbers attending schools at once, and for the government to meet its promise to deliver broadband and computer equipment to all pupils who do not have them at home.

It said that schools should remain open to the children of key workers and vulnerable children, as they did in the first national lockdown.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate that 1 per cent of primary school pupils and 2 per cent of secondary school pupils have the virus.

The NEU’s analysis of the figures found that virus levels are now nine times higher among primary school pupils and 50 times higher among secondary school pupils than in September.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of teachers’ union NASUWT, said: “With levels of virus transmission increasing exponentially, the failure to deal with the threat of the virus has once again been fatally exposed.

“It is vital that the government recognises that schools and colleges must be part of a national strategy to tackle the continuing spread of the virus.”

Mr Roach said protection for vulnerable workers must be extended to those in schools & colleges and urged the government to provide clear evidence on why schools are being kept open.

The University and College Union (UCU) said that universities, which are also exempt from lockdown restrictions, must move all non-essential in-person teaching online.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Public health directors in Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool have already moved teaching online at universities in response to rising cases of Covid.

“The government’s measures must follow suit. It cannot afford to undermine the country’s sacrifice, and risk the health and safety of staff and students, by allowing in-person teaching to continue on campuses.”

The Labour Party backed keeping schools open, though party leader Sir Keir Starmer warned that “we’ve got to manage the risk.”

But Labour’s Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said that schools should be closed to push infection rates down and to “avoid a scenario where large parts of the north-west are simply put back in Tier 3 coming out of this.”

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said the government “should have acted decisively much sooner and now families face a grim winter.”

She said that the extension of the furlough scheme, announced on Saturday along with the national lockdown, was “long overdue and necessary,” but that ministers “must do more to protect jobs and prevent poverty.

“Furlough pay must never fall below the national minimum wage. We need a boost to universal credit and government should not abandon the self-employed.

“And we will not control the virus unless the government fixes the test-and-trace system and the scandal of workers asked to self-isolate without decent sick pay.”

Entertainment union Bectu said it was “deeply concerning” that self-employed and freelance workers have again been overlooked by the government.

The union’s head Philippa Childs said: “The extension of the furlough scheme is welcome, though it is coming far too late for thousands of theatre, cinema and live events workers already made redundant.”

The Communist Party’s Robert Griffiths branded the overdue lockdown a “shambolic betrayal” of the people by a government “which has fought hard to put the interests of big business first.”