Published On: Wed, Jul 1st, 2020

Teachers: Keep the pressure on the Tories for safe schools

The Tory government continues to attack teachers’ unions over the effects of the lockdown on children. This hypocrisy ignores the decade of devastating cuts to education and other public services inflicted by the Tories. 

Yet up until now, the government has offered no support for the wider opening of schools. Instead, schools have had to rely on the existing budgets to bolster online provision and prepare the ground for reopening.

Gavin Williamson recently pledged £1bn towards a catch-up programme for schools. Primary and secondary schools will receive £650 million. Yet support for under-5s was slashed from the funding at the last minute. And 16-18 year olds are yet to be planned for at all. 

The remaining £350m will subsidise a tutoring programme to bridge the learning gap for disadvantaged children, for whom a lack of internet access and difficulties over parental support have been a real barrier to learning during the lockdown.

There has been no collaboration with teaching unions, however, on the effectiveness of tutoring. And there is great scepticism over whether this will be up and running by September for the one million disadvantaged children in need of this support.

Deaf ears

Gavin Williamson vs teachersThe government has been in direct conflict with teaching unions. Williamson and co. have belligerently attempted to force teachers back into schools, using the right-wing media as their attack dogs.

The Tories have falsely claimed to be working ‘closely’ with schools. Days prior to the wider opening of primary schools on 1 June, headteachers were inundated with documents on the ‘safe’ opening of schools – but had no time or resources to read or act on this. 

With September fast approaching and no government plan in sight, the Nation Education Union (NEU) has proposed a ten-point recovery plan. This includes maintaining safe social distancing guidelines – which require much smaller class sizes – by utilising public buildings such as libraries, sports halls, civic centres and religious buildings. The union also proposes re-employing teachers who have left the profession.

But these suggestions have clearly fallen upon deaf ears. The Tories are pushing ahead with reducing the social distancing rule to one metre and removing class ‘bubbles’ completely.

One NEU member in Brent told Socialist Appeal:

“My Year 1 class has nine children and it’s full. One metre will allow for double but not the full thirty. Each class bubble keeps to itself which minimises the risk of spreading the virus. To do away with that would be reckless.”

Tory lies

No one knows better about how to meet the needs of disadvantaged children than teachers themselves. We have the ability to plan the remedial programmes required. But we need sufficient funding, space, and additional staff in order to do this safely. 

Teachers have already organised in the NEU to fightback against Tory blundering. Thanks to pressure from below, the wider opening of school has been pushed back until September. However, we need to keep up the pressure.

The Tories are only interested in the profits of big business, not in the safety of children, teachers and parents. They are claiming that everything will be okay; that everything will be ‘back to normal’ come September. This is a lie.

The labour movement must keep fighting to ensure that students and staff do not pay the price for this lie come the autumn term.

Socialist Appeal

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