Last reviewed 25 January 2021

Amidst concerns that there is still no indication of when schools might reopen to all pupils, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson recently said that schools and colleges will have two weeks' notice of any plan to open more widely.

This was welcomed by Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU).

She said: “The last thing that parents and children need, now, is a stop-start approach. We all want schools to be open, but they must be opened when it is safe to do so, and when the conditions are right to keep schools open sustainably.”

However, the general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, Paul Whiteman, was unhappy that restricted access to school looks set to continue beyond half term.

Whilst he recognised that a firm date for a return to school is not currently possible, he told the Education Secretary that a firm plan for the return is essential.

“Government tells us that the rationale for restricting access to school has always been about suppressing community transmission, and all the while those rates remain dangerously high, the Government has decided that restricted access to schools is an important part of the response,” he said.

However, Mr Whiteman went on, the Government is not without options in other areas, and it should remember this.

It must make sure it is doing everything in its power to meet the immediate needs of young people, anticipate what else might be necessary and set out the details of a longer term recovery.

“The solution is to bring school leaders into the decision-making process, rather than paying lip service to engagement and issuing threats of legal action and inspection,” he concluded. “Trusting the expertise, hard work and dedication of the profession is the route out of the pandemic, as far as education is concerned.”