Tag Archives: teachers

Give it a rest, Ofsted

Ian Duckett and Chris Smith

Norfolk and Suffolk SEA and Norfolk NEU

 “Ofsted has nothing to contribute to this current crisis.” Was the response of NEU general secretary Kevin Courtney to a question from a teacher about what to expect from the government watchdog over the next stages of the educational response to Covid19 in one of the unions many zoom meetings to discuss its approach to the governments mishandling of school reopening. Hardly a revelatory sentiment and one which the majority of the teaching profession will have shared in normal times, but times of crisis like these are remarkable for their ability to bring into sharp focus the things that really matter and those that don’t. The fact that during a time of existential threat to education as we know it the body whose own logo reads as “raising standards, improving lives” can be so accurately described is telling, and the quangos silence over how to educate children in unprecedented circumstances speaks volumes over how little it has to offer on the subject of raising educational standards. It is revealed for what it is and what all teachers have always known it to be a political tool utilised to shape education in a manner appealing to politicians even, and often especially when at odds with the profession itself. It has nothing to offer now on how to actually educate and safeguard children because ofsted inspectors are not in the business of offering such services themselve, if they were they would be where doing so really counts. In the classroom.  So now that Covid has established the political narrative of following the science and being led by the experts let us apply that theme to a reconstructed school inspection system based on those principles.

The most significant failures of Ofsted as a body charged with “raising standards and improving lives” through inspecting schools all stem from the inadequate nature of its inspection procedure and the professional nature of its inspectors themselves. The political narrative around Ofsted’s creation and reform has also been far too narrow to provide adequate discussion of such an important issue. In his memoirs Ken Clarke the former education secretary who presided over Ofsted’s creation claimed he introduced it “not to kick teachers” (although it its telling he felt the need to address this perception) but to counter what he perceived as the tendency of education, as well as all other public services in his view, to favour the needs of those who worked in the service over those who, in his words “consumed” the service. The need to counter this “producer bias” was also referred to by Tony Blair in his memoirs in explaining why he continued the public service reforms of the Major governments and why he held the views of trade unions in such low regard feeling they did not represent the people that really mattered, the consumers of services. Even former union leader Alan Johnson recently resorted to the term “producer bias” in an interview explaining why he felt the government was right to push for school reopening against the views of the majority of the teaching profession and its unions. This language is significant as it frames the narrative in a dangerously reductionist fashion in two ways. Firstly by applying the language of the market to public services it begins the transition to applying the logic of the market to their delivery. However as services like education are not commodities they should not be reduced to market speak as students certainly do not consume education from teachers who dispense it in a transactional fashion and I doubt very many parents think of their child’s experience in school in this way. Interestingly in the case of education politicians often mean “parents” rather than students when they speak of consumers in a further debasement of language.

Secondly perhaps most significantly this language casts producers and consumers as being somehow in conflict with each other and in possession of opposing and irreconcilable goals which of course is absurd in the relationship between teacher and student. Both desire the students’ success, in some cases teachers wanting it more than students themselves.

This false dichotomy then is the basis for Ofsted, keeping the producers of education in line in case they attempt to fleece their customers. Absent from this view is any trust in teachers as professionals who have the best interest of their students at heart, in the same way doctors do their patients, lawyers their clients or even politicians their constituents (and I mean that unironically as I am convinced the majority of politicians enter politics to serve others, I just take issue with which others specifically they seek to serve). Aside from Tristram Hunt’s unthought through pitch of a teacher’s oath to rival the Hippocratic oath of doctors from his brief stint as shadow education secretary under Ed Miliband the case of teachers professionalism being the starting point for assembling the superstructure of the UKs education system has been totally absent from the thinking of leading politicians. At the last election despite both the Liberal Democrats and Labour pledging to remove Ofsted the Tories didn’t even engage in the debate that a standards body which long ago lost the confidence of the profession it seeks to safeguard is in an untenable position. So let us now re frame this debate in the realisation that while Ofsted has nothing to offer the world of education as it now is, that world cannot function without the highly skilled and committed professionals who are teachers. So their views must surely be placed at the forefront of determining, assessing and then raising standards in education.

My former head of department used to half jokingly compare ofsted inspectors to the ring wraiths from the Lord of the Rings. Just as the wraiths had once been great kings, corrupted by the temptations of the rings of power, many ofsted inspectors had once been teachers now tempted out of the classroom by the inspectorates’ claim to “raise standards and improve lives”. Only of course to find themselves bringing nothing but misery to their former colleagues. The most insulting feature many teachers will report from ofsted inspections is the unaccountable and out of touch nature of inspectors, many will not have been in the classroom full time for years and given the pace of change in education that can well equate to making their previous experiences irrelevant. So why not make all those who inspect schools currently serving classroom teachers themselves?

Make it part of the professional expectation of the role that at some point in your career you will be called like jury service to undertake a year out of the classroom to travel the country reviewing other schools Ask any teacher what they wish they had more time to do in the cause of CPD and invariably “observe other teachers or schools” will be on the list. As a PGCE & NQT mentor it is something we must make time for trainees to do as part of their initial training but then after that initial NQT year it is something which drops to the bottom of everyone’s priorities despite it being recognised as a great way of improving all involved. Ask School leaders what they spend their time doing to raise standards and it is network with other schools to scout out how others cope with the latest initiative or challenge. So why not adapt the inspection of schools to meet these goals and make it what Ofsted claims to be a supportive body dedicated to raising standards. Well put the teachers in charge of it and let them do just that at a stroke raising their professional autonomy and status as gatekeepers of standards based upon peer review rather than top down dictat. There should be no such thing as permanent inspectors whose sole job is to pass judgment on others doing a job they themselves do not. Rather the DfO can pride schools with the funding required to cover the salaries of serving teachers for the years they are drawn to visit other schools, with the expectation being that at the end of the year those teachers return to their schools and can then present a whole school cpd session informed by what they saw in the other schools they visited. A virtuous circle for all involved.  Including on the financial front, gone is a vast bureaucratic quango with armies of permanent inspectors on contract in its place a minimal secretarial staff for administration, and perhaps a small pay rise equivalent to an additional point on the current pay scale for teachers competing for a years service. Or perhaps not even this as teachers would value the enhanced professional autonomy they would receive and the corresponding stress free existence in a post ofsted world they would enjoy far above any financial reward. The true definition of doing more with less, and working smarter rather than working harder.

What of those school visits (I am purposely dropping the term inspections). They are to be what they should always be a learning opportunity for all involved in the spirit of what education is a public service. All schools have something of merit that they can teach to others, depending upon their different circumstances and this lack of appreciation of context is one of the most gaping holes in current ofsted criteria. Serving classroom teachers are the best places to notice and comment appropriately on this difference in context when visiting schools different to their own. The aim of these visits should be to point out what is going well, what can be improved and what could be shared to improve other schools. If “innocent until proven guilty” is good enough to form the basis of the western world’s justice system it should equally apply to education. Unless clear evidence of malpractice, or continued ineffective practise is found schools should be assumed to be effectively meeting the needs of their communities. Teachers can judge what is effective or not in a classroom or school community and it is this language that should be used to replace the debasement of language that are the  “outstanding” “good” and “requires improvements” of Ofsted. If we must stick to such labels how about: “effective” “partially effective” “not yet effective”. These terms were suggested by education blogger and author Mike Fleatham (who runs the Thinking classroom website) who led a session on pedagogy for an NUT young teachers conference some years back that I was fortunate to attend. Afterwards I suggested to my head we use this language for our staff appraisals to replace the ofsted language we had been using to that point, and to my great surprise he agreed regarding it as summing up what he wanted to do in changing the culture of appraisals from “observations done to people” to a collaborative process they took ownership of”.

Children must be safely back in school by September – Kate Green

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, responding to the guidance issued today on children’s return to schools in September, said:

“All children must be safely back in school by September. By then, they’ll have suffered a six-month gap in their learning. Officials in the Department for Education have warned this could lead to a widening of the attainment gap of up to 75% as children from disadvantaged backgrounds have lacked access to resources to learn at home.

“Teachers, school leaders, staff, and parents have achieved a huge amount throughout this crisis, and now they desperately need the support of the government. With only three weeks to go before the end of term, there is an enormous amount to prepare: finalising health and safety arrangements, ensuring there is space for children to learn, restructuring the school day and providing reassurance to parents.

“The Government has been asleep at the wheel, but heads and staff cannot be left to do this alone. Labour is calling for a cross-party taskforce to focus urgently on getting the necessary arrangements in place so that all students can return safely in September.”

On the cusp: education and social care in the time of Corona – Ian Duckett

Ian Duckett Education correspondent for SATU-East

(First published in the SEA journal, Education Politics , June 2020.)

In recent times I have been the designated safeguarding lead in three educational settings, including an alternative provision attended (or more often not) by some extremely vulnerable young people. In the present pandemic I have been working in the guise of educator.

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Nothing I have experienced in these roles has challenged my view that barriers to learning are neither purely educational concerns to be addressed by teachers nor problems to be solved by social workers. In almost all cases they existed and continue to exist on the cusp of education and social care.

At the heart of this argument is of course the ground breaking legislation by Labour in 2003 and pockets of local initiatives that pre-dated and influenced in and which gave birth to the barely still breathing Sure Start project.

Every Child Matters (ECM) , the radical government initiative for England and Wales that was launched in 2003, at least partly in response to the death of Victoria Climbié,  is one of the most important policy initiatives ever introduced and development in relation to children and children’s services ever. It led in the short to medium term to massive and progressive advances to the children and families agenda, leading to the Children Act 2004. ECM covers children and young adults up to the age of 19, or 24 for those with disabilities and it is important (especially perhaps in the time of Coronavirus) to remember its keynotes:

  • stay safe
  • be healthy
  • enjoy and achieve
  • make a positive contribution
  • achieve economic well-being
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As well as my own harrowing experiences and observations that ranging from victims of abuse and violence to hunger and neglect, the SEA seminar, entitled,  Vulnerable Children and the Lock Down,  on 16 April provided some valuable input. One issue has been the provision of free school meal vouchers. In usual fake tory so called “value for money” solutions, it has been out sourced to a company with inadequate IT to deal with the demand. There are families who are starving because of it. One of the children I have been dealing with in Norwich only engages at all so that he can get a daily Aldi meal deal voucher. There are similar stories in a number of London boroughs.

The BBC’s Newsnight Special Coronavirus: How Britain’s invisible children are being forgotten, broadcast on 9 April (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0892xt2) also provided great insight into the social, economic and health crises. The low numbers of at risk children taking their crisis place in a school is frighteningly low and the most economically disadvantaged are without the free school meals service, in some areas as low as 10%.

Newington Green School in Islington was featured. It is in an area, though often seen as leafy and well to do houses and schools some of the most deprived children in the UK. The N1 postcode is on all kinds of cusps.

Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on child protection told BBC Newsnight: “A worryingly low number of vulnerable children allocated a school place in England to keep them safe during the coronavirus crisis are actually turning up”. In some areas just a quarter of the “at risk” children who are meant to be in school are attending, the programme has been told. Norfolk is the only local authority to have reported an official figure. It is 13%. In some areas the figure is below 10%.A head teacher said that she believes those officially deemed “at risk” were “only the tip of the iceberg”.

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Children who would probably be taken into care under normal circumstances, where a more specialised provision would be available are having to be dealt with in a wholly inadequate mainstream provision. Teachers and social workers are on the front line and having to have contact with children and their parents at their own risk.

The remedy for this, of course, as it was in 2003 and always has been: to achieve economic well-being for all of our young people.

This can only be done by preparing learners for employment and economic, independent living through training providers’, proper apprenticeships and work.

The following characteristics would provide the evidence for young learners achieving economic well-being:

■ examples of the development of learners’


■ learners’ involvement and achievement in

enterprise activities;

■ learners developing employability skills;

■ learners engaging in team building and


■ learners access to, and take-up of, careers

education, advice and guidance;

■ personal finance education

■ work experience;

■ work-based learning.

Information, advice and guidance must be evidenced by:

■ careers advice and guidance;

■ a schedule of one-to-one interviews.

The real fear is that the inequalities inherent in a social class rigged education system will be exacerbated by the pandemic school closure in a Michael Gove inspired wet dream with a well- resourced affluent middle-class keeping up with and getting ahead of the school curriculum and an army of disadvantaged youngster with no resource and no encouragement.   A work-related curriculum needs to be rooted in a meaningful skills-based curriculum with transferable skills as its spine and entitlement at its heart and engagement, life-skills, literacy in its blood.

Rebecca Long Bailey responds to the Government’s announcement on lost teaching time due to Covid-19

Rebecca Long Bailey MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, responding to the Government’s announcement on lost teaching time due to Covid-19, said:

“The funding and the principle of a tutoring scheme is certainly a welcome start but it needs to be backed with a detailed national education plan to get children’s education and health back on track.

“We want to see all pupils return to school safely as soon as possible and repeat our call on the Government to urgently convene a taskforce across the sector to develop detailed plans in collaboration with trade unions, local authorities, parent’s organisations, scientific and health experts.

“The present plans lack detail and appear to be a tiny fraction of the support our pupils need at this critical time. The Government must take its responsibility to support children’s learning and their safe return to school seriously and demonstrate leadership in making this happen.”

‘Heroes are being left stranded’ by Michael Larcey

June 2020 – Feature Story

Michael Larcey – labour activist from Downham Market in Norfolk.

To be frank, Rt. Honourable Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk, illustrates the whole hypocrisy of the Johnson government. She patronises her constituents by saying how proud she is of them but then she is supporting the Immigration Bill which, in effect, classifies those ‘heroes’ as ‘unskilled’ and that those hard-working immigrants who provide 20% of care staff have no right to reside in this country.
Then there is the Conservative Party’s and its propaganda machine’s (The Daily Mail, Daily Express et cetera) demonising of our children’s teachers and their Unions because they question the decision to open schools gradually. Even Michael Gove cannot guarantee that it will be safe for teachers and children to return to school.

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The Conservative Party and your media also has completely misrepresented what teachers are really doing to maintain education during lockdown. What is of major concern is that the government has no idea of what goes on in schools or probably ignores this and is failing to protect children, parents, and teachers by not providing any extra resources in the way of protection. Elizabeth would probably reply that this is the responsibility of the local councils or educational trusts, but they have had their budgets cut over the past 10 years. The government’s concern for the less well off families is hypocritical because in the first place most poverty has been caused by the policy of austerity for the most vulnerable, and secondly, if such concern were genuine they would fund computers and internet access for poor children. What I understand by these attacks on teachers is the beginning of an attempt to undermine the role of Unions in the workplace.
As for your staged plan to reduce lockdown, it is clear that the Johnson government has learned very little from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other countries. The best one can call it is ‘dithering’ and the worst ‘herd immunity’. Instead of ‘test, track, trace’ there was an amazing Trump-like indifference as shown by Johnson failing to attend four Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBRA) meetings. The testing is failing to meet its targets daily. The failure to respond to the crisis in residential and nursing homes beggars belief.
The consequences of all this, are that:

  1. the UK has the highest death rate in Europe
  2. thousands are losing jobs and many more thousands are living on subsistence levels
  3. many industries big and small are collapsing
  4. councils are losing commercial funds hand over fist
  5. consequently services are likely to be cut.
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The constant broadcasts about Covid-19 are annoying because most of the time it is pure and simply brain-washing, trying to persuade people that Johnson has a grasp on the situation (that fake news would be funny were it not proving to be fatal). It is a ‘drip drip’ of questionable information with little challenging by truthful experts. Certainly, the Tories are using the tactics of Hitler’s Nazis: constant propaganda, after their campaign against Democratic Socialism in the anti-Semitic slurs, and now attacks on Unions. What next? The burning of Das Capital and other books they don’t like the cover of? I use my, up to now, right to turn them off. Am I being caustic? But they let the cat out of the bag with their ‘herd immunity’. It illustrates what Hitler thought: the need to purge the population to purify it. To confound matters, there are reports that to pay for the Johnson government’s incompetence or wilful inaction (Herd immunity theory), taxes for the many are to be raised while taxes for the rich are to be lowered.

While the lives of our elders, our vulnerable, and essential workers are at stake during the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of millions of us across the globe have been restraining ourselves at home, choosing not to do many things for many weeks in order to protect those we love. Surely the earth is breathing a sigh of relief for our reduction in pollution and fossil fuel use. This “Great Pause,” as some are calling it, gives me hope that we will soon find it within ourselves to protect our shared home, not only for our own sake, but for our neighbours across the globe, and future generations.
We have the tools (nonviolence chief among them) to allow us to stand up to the powerful and the reckless, and we have the fundamental idea of human solidarity that we could take as our guide.

The Covid19 pandemic cannot be treated as a trivial matter, despite Prime Minister Johnson’s indifference to it at the beginning: some of his early brush-offs have proven fatal for tens of thousands of people and a danger to the health of hundreds of thousands who became ill with the virus and put millions into isolation. Hopefully an independent inquiry will investigate the government’s handling of the response to the pandemic.

Rt. Honourable Elizabeth Truss, President of the Board of Trade, is setting up trade deals with the Trump administration. These will include bartering the NHS, of which you say you are so proud and undermining our farming industry, for deals that include products from the USA that would be banned in the UK and the EU. The Trade Bill sets out to introduce trading unfettered by our government’s intervention whatever the colour of the government. We already know that our farmers will be ruined through international dumping of food that currently does not meet our standards of production produced by practices that are banned in the UK and the EU. This will apply to all UK industries. As for the NHS and our welfare system, both will become market places with the emphasis on profits not caring. Sir Captain Moore has raised £33million and in the future most of that will end up in the pockets of directors who ‘help’ to administer these types of funds. I admire Sir Tom for what he has done but in a sense he is an indication of how the funding of our health and welfare is heading: to charities, lotteries and directors pocket, and eventually to global insurance. Should a private company lose out in a tendering process, they will get their smart suited lawyers to demand compensation. Virgincare did this and got £300k+ from the taxpayer because they did not succeed in getting a contract.
Forget about the sovereignty of the UK. By promoting ‘free trade’ it is ‘no holds barred’. Parliament will lose its ability to protect us citizens from unsafe practices, poor production values, dangerous goods with no right to reply. You get a dodgy T.V., too bad. The economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in The History of Economics 1991, ch. 21: ‘The great dialectic of our time is not…between capital and labour; it is between economic enterprise and the State. It looks as though Ms. Truss is in the vanguard for economic enterprise. Underneath it all, our ‘Heroes’ are being left stranded. ’ We have given up the protection of the EU, to a situation in which anything goes. UK sovereignty is now a thing of the past.

One of the blessings of living in this country is that we have one of the best farming communities. I have watched on various programmes on TV how our farmers valiantly try to produce food, acknowledging the need to be ecologically progressive as well as maintaining high standards of meat and vegetable production.
But not just maintaining but also pushing up the standards through well-grounded research.
It is our fortune to be recipients of this ever-improving industry.
This is against a background of global retailers like Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, and so on forcing down their costs so that farmers have to subsidise promotions by these supermarkets.
However, this is not the end of their trials. Unfortunately, for centuries the UK has had to import a lot of its food, but now, because of the need to offset the damage that will be done by Brexit, this government will have to make trade agreements as a junior, begging partner, with countries that will swamp our markets with food of an inferior standard: beef full of antibiotics and other chemicals, chicken washed with chlorine, vegetables grown in fertilisers banned by the EU and the UK.
Now, there is the leaked government report that forecasts that the UK economy will be badly damaged Post-Brexit which the Brexiteers are trying to dismiss but tried to keep it secret and want to pursue it until they have fixed it to their liking.
Yet, we have people like Edward Wheatley, the resident Kipper, who, living in a Ukip fantasy land Walt Disney would have be proud to draw, says that the UK economy is growing and that unemployment is at a low level and that everything is Brexit hunky-dory.
What he doesn’t say is that the growth in the UK economy is the slowest possible and this against a background of global economic buoyancy.
Countries that once were deemed economically backward have better growth than the UK and it is not Brexit time just yet! Just one industry, car manufacturing, in the UK is 3pc down.
As for unemployment figures, they are of people who are registered unemployed.
However, employment figures do not account for the increase in homelessness, up triplicate in East Anglia, increasing poverty and de-valuing of wages and pensions, private companies exploiting public services, and leaving large debts for the public purse to pick up while shareholders and executives avoid paying taxes.
If the economy is doing so well, how come the NHS and social welfare services, the police, fire and ambulance services, the prison, probationary, and border services are in crisis?
Meanwhile Tory politicians can increase their expenses well beyond the rate of inflation? Come on. Ted, prick your Ukip bubble, stop blaming everything on immigrants, and face the neo-liberal reality forced on UK citizens.

As for the future, I believe that the (Labour) Party and the Local Party should take a radical approach that needs to be worked out according to local conditions. It is not a matter of obtaining power but of fighting to improve the lives of Norfolk people. What we need to do is try to understand how those being canvassed perceive it.
We tell the issues and we tell them the solutions!
What if before canvassing we asked them what concerns them. Some of the answers will not be palatable, but along with acceptable answers, local parties can respond in a way relevant to local issues. This was used in Chipping Barnet and the Party won Thatcher’s local authority, her seat, and two other seats in London Borough of Barnet.

(All opinions belong to  Michael Larcey)

Support staff have little confidence in government school safety plans, says UNISON

An overwhelming majority of school support staff don’t feel reassured by government claims that English schools are safe to open to more pupils from the beginning of June, according to a UNISON survey published today (Friday).

Only 2% of employees felt reassured by the Prime Minister saying it was safe to open schools more widely from 1 June.

Almost all staff (96%) felt ministers hadn’t put safety first when developing their back to school plans, according to the survey of 45,200 teaching and classroom assistants, cleaners, administrative, management staff, and technicians*.

The primary, secondary, special and early years workers were surveyed soon after Boris Johnson’s call earlier this month for children in reception and years 1 and 6 to return to schools in England from a week on Monday.

More than three in five (61%) of staff surveyed were already working in schools – on a rota basis or full-time throughout the lockdown – so are well aware of the challenges of operating in schools during the pandemic.

Workers’ confidence in their own schools’ ability to be ready for a wider opening in June was low. Just over three quarters (77%) didn’t feel their school would have the resources to cope with the additional responsibility of putting health, safety and risk assessments in place in time.

As well as the threat to their own health, staff were concerned about the impact of a rushed return on their own children.

Of those with school age children, 95% said they didn’t feel it was safe to send them back to school. One worker said she was ‘petrified’ at the thought of her seven-year-old going back.

The research provides insights from school staff who have often been shut out of the debate about schools opening more widely, despite being among those who would be hardest hit if they contracted Covid-19, says UNISON.

That’s because support staff tend to be older, are disproportionately from the BAME community and come from more disadvantaged backgrounds than teachers, says UNISON. The government has not modelled the impact of an increase in pupil numbers on this group of staff.

Commenting on the findings, UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “The survey sends out a strong message that ministers shouldn’t gamble with the safety of pupils, staff and the wider community by sending them back to school too early.

“It makes no sense for there to be such a push for schools to open more widely in England, while other parts of the UK are taking a much more considered approach.

“The government must commit to a safe and structured return. There’s little confidence in ministers’ plans, that’s clear to see. Staff, parents and schools aren’t ready to go back without reassurances that safety is the number one priority.

“Unions want to work with ministers to make schools as safe as possible, so that parents, their children and staff will want to return. But the rush to get some schools open to meet an arbitrary date isn’t at all helpful.”

Government not demonstrated it can start planning for safe opening of schools – Long-Bailey

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commenting on the guidance in relation to schools re-opening, said:

“In the absence of clear scientific advice and a safety plan, the Government has not demonstrated it is in a position to start planning for the wider safe opening of schools, or given any reassurance to parents, teachers and pupils that they will be safe.

“There is no information about how social distancing will work in schools, how teaching and support staff, pupils and parents will be protected from the virus, how small class sizes will be achieved, and no evidence behind the decision to select some year groups over others.

“The Government must urgently convene education unions and the profession more widely and address their concerns, to allay the anxiety and confusion caused by Boris Johnson’s announcement and this guidance.

“By working with the sector the Government can create a workable plan for the reopening of schools when the science indicates it is safe to do so, and which has the confidence of all those affected.”

Nothing less than full application of trade union key tests for school reopening is acceptable

Speaking about the TUC’s joint statement outlining the measures needed for the safe reopening of schools, sent to the Secretary of State for Education on behalf of unions with members in the education sector, Unite national officer Jim Kennedy said: “As the Prime Minister moves impatiently to a premature easing of the lockdown, it is essential we have in place the safeguards that protect our workers and communities. 

“The public support for our essential workers across the public sector has shown that they will not accept another botched process, Boris Johnson has been exposed for his, and the government’s, catastrophic handling of this crisis and I sure we are all fed up to the back teeth with his jingoistic language as some sort of elixir to the daily tragedies our communities are suffering.

“Our school support staff, teachers, pupils, parents and relatives are rightly concerned and alarmed at the thought of a hasty programme to reopen our schools, therefore the school support staff unions including Unite, teaching unions and the TUC have set out the key principles and tests that must be met before that can happen. 

“We know what a fantastic job our teachers and support staff have done in caring and educating the pupils of our essential workers, they have done so at great risk to themselves and their families, we must now ensure that the key tests contained within the trade union joint statement are fully applied, nothing less is acceptable. 

“Just a few shorts days ago we marked International Workers Memorial Day where we stated that we will remember the dead and fight for the living, Unite is committed to fulfilling that pledge.”

Education Secretary should resign rather than cut free school meals for infants – Rayner

Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commenting on the government’s failure to rule out scrapping universal free school meals for infants, said:

“It is deeply alarming that Ministers failed to rule out scrapping universal free school meals for infants in the upcoming Budget, repeatedly dodging our questions in the Commons.

“With children turning up to school too hungry to learn and millions in food poverty, the government must urgently assure parents and teachers that universal infant free school meals are safe and, quite frankly, the Education Secretary should be prepared to resign rather than implement such a brutal cut.”