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THE UK’s biggest teachers’ union has backed a ‘circuit breaker’ coronavirus lockdown and called for an extended two-week half term.
The intervention by the National Education Union (NEU) comes amid mounting pressure on Boris Johnson from Labour, the NHS and the Government’s scientific advisers to reintroduce national measures.
The NEU says the emergency measure is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus – calling for schools and colleges across England to close for two weeks for the October half term, rather than one.
It comes after new data from the Office for National Statistics showed there was an estimated average of 27,900 new cases per day of Covid-19 between October 2 and 8.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “Heads, teachers and school staff understand the educational impact of this, but we also understand that in exponential epidemics early action is essential.
On Friday, figures from the ONS showed that the highest rates of infection in England continue to be among young adults and secondary school pupils.
Mr Courtney said: “This should be no surprise to either the Prime Minister or the Department for Education.
“Scientists have consistently told them that secondary students transmit the virus as much as adults, and we have warned them that because we have amongst the biggest class sizes in Europe we have overcrowded classrooms and corridors without effective social distancing.
“Our classrooms often have poor ventilation, leading to airborne transmissions, and in many areas we have also have overcrowded school transport where children are mixing across year-group bubbles.
“These children live in families and are part of communities, so even if they have few or no symptoms themselves they are still part of spreading the virus to others, including to teachers and other school staff.”
He added: “Such a circuit-breaker could allow the Government to get in control of the test, track and trace system, and get cases lower to allow the system to work better.”
The NEU’s call for children to stay at home for longer in October puts them at odds with ministers who are keen for kids to remain in the classroom – even in very high risk areas.
Such a circuit-breaker could allow the Government to get in control of the test, track and trace system, and get cases lower to allow the system to work better.
Boris Johnson has consistently vowed to keep schools and colleges open, insisting they should only ever be shut again as a “very, very last resort” – even if the country goes into full or circuit breaker lockdown.
In August the PM said: “We think that education is the priority for the country and that is simple social justice.”
The NEU’s intervention comes amid tension between the Government and its scientific advisers over Covid restrictions.
On Monday, minutes from the Sage group showed they had called for a circuit break lockdown three weeks ago.
The temporary break has also been backed by Labour leader Keir Starmer, as well as Greater Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham.
Mr Burnham this week rejected a Tier 3 lockdown in Greater Manchester – a move Boris Johnson has said could cause more Brits to die.
In a blistering attack, the PM warned England may be plunged back into the “bad old days” of a national lockdown if local leaders blocked his system of regional restrictions.
On Tuesday, Government statistics showed that more than one-in-five state secondary schools were not fully open last week.
The proportion of state schools that were partially closed over the past week increased – and most were not fully open due to Covid-related reasons.
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News – Teachers union backs circuit breaker lockdown and calls for two-week half term