The SEA is concerned that the Conservative Government are prioritising the economy over public health. Instead of planning for and implementing measures to limit the spread of the disease – such as closing schools, universities etc – as other countries have done, the Tories are choosing to put the economy before public safety.
There is evidence that suggests closing schools could reduce spread, and help avoid the massive peak in the number of people becoming sick and overwhelming the health service. Plans should be put in place so that childcare is provided for essential workers whilst allowing schools to effectively close.
This virus is exposing the shocking disconnect between services due to privatisation and degradation in our communities. The only way we can minimise the impact is by working together in local communities. This needs to be facilitated and encouraged by the government.
The SEA believes the NEU and other education unions should demand:
- Cancellation of all non-essential events like OFSTED inspections. There should be no non- essential personnel in schools, nurseries, etc, and the immediate cancellation of any remaining extracurricular events like inter- school sporting fixtures or parents consultation events. Schools should be closed as soon as possible.
- All children – including those in receipt of free school meals – must as a priority have all their needs met during the pandemic.
- Guaranteed pay for workers impacted by the virus, not just those who become ill but also those who need to self-isolate due to exposure or to protect themselves or vulnerable members of their family.
- In the inevitable event of school closures education workers who are covering long term absences or unfilled vacancies should also continue to be paid inline with permanent members of staff. Also ensure pay for outsourced workers eg. cleaners, school meals workers and make provision for day to day supply staff in this instance
The SEA recommends that education trade unions convene remote meetings of their national executives, and hold online press conferences to coordinate with members. The Left and the unions must show any leadership during the Coronavirus crisis, the most acute social crisis we’ve faced for a long time, rather than deferring to this government. We must fight to protect the vulnerable both in terms of health and financial security.