Northumberland teaching unions back keeping schools open

Teaching union representatives in Northumberland have backed schools staying open and praised the support efforts in the county.

By Ben O'Connell
Thursday, 5th November 2020, 2:39 pm
There have been mixed views on schools staying open during the second national lockdown
There have been mixed views on schools staying open during the second national lockdown

Unlike the first coronavirus lockdown which started in March, schools and other educational settings are staying open during England’s second lockdown, running from November 5 to Wednesday, December 2.

Nationally, teaching unions have raised some concerns, but two representatives in Northumberland have made it clear that they are not worried about the situation in the county, based on the partnership approach and support from the local authority.

At the Thursday, November 5, meeting of the county council’s meeting family and children’s services committee, John Sanderson, of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “There’s not a great groundswell of opinion for closing schools as far as the NEU is concerned locally. I’m actually getting very little traffic from colleagues.

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“A national edict doesn’t always reflect local actions, but that’s my local position. It may make me very unpopular with my members, but that’s the position locally.”

NASUWT’s Lyn Houghton added: “We are also not getting much traffic from members to suggest that we need to be closing schools. They are all very supportive of the need to maintain education at the moment.

“They are all very positive that all the work with partners means that schools are as safe as they possibly can be in these very challenging and quick-changing times.”

The committee heard that up to Monday, November 2, there had been 396 positive cases in Northumberland schools, with 86 having had one case or more and 77 having no cases so far.

Cllr Scott Dickinson asked about the prospect of fines for parents who may be anxious about sending their children to school.

The council’s executive director of children’s services, Cath McEvoy-Carr, responded: “Prosecuting or fining is always the absolute last resort. Wherever we possibly can, we work with families to ensure their children receive an appropriate education.

“There’s no appetite to be prosecuting parents at this point in time. In terms of Covid anxieties, we will try to work with those parents to ensure children get the education they need.”

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