Some Mansfield schools choose not to reopen as unions tell members 'it's not safe'

Some Mansfield schools are choosing to not re-open this week amid fears over spiralling coronavirus rates.

By Dale Spridgeon
Monday, 4th January 2021, 2:16 pm
Updated Monday, 4th January 2021, 3:51 pm

The move comes as UNISON and the National Education Union (NEU) are advising members that only the teachers and staff needed to look after vulnerable or children of key workers should return to schools today (Monday).

The NEU is calling on primary schools to move to remote learning for the first two weeks of January telling members: “It is unsafe for you to attend the workplace at present.”

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Farmilo School and Nursery has chosen to only partially re-open. Google Map

UNISON’s head of education Jon Richards said the Government should “act decisively’ to delay the start of term for all schools by two weeks because of “spiralling infection rates.”

He said: "We feel strongly that it is not safe, particularly in primary schools, for members. The union is clear, members who work in schools have a right to a safe working environment.”

The NAHT (headteacher union) also initiated a legal challenge to the government’s decision to fully re-open primary schools in tier 4.

St Edmund’s CofE Primary School, Mansfield Woodhouse said following a response from ‘the majority’ of its 30 staff, it was moving to online and remote learning.

Headteacher Nadeem Shah said: “Starting from tomorrow (Tuesday) we have to respond to the unions’ stance, they’ve advised members of their legal right not to return to school amid significant health and safety fears.

“There will be lot of eligible families we won’t be able to support due to staffing, but we are prioritising the most vulnerable and children of emergency services workers only. It’s an exceptionally difficult situation.

"The best place for children is in school learning, playing with friends, but in the current situation it is not possible. We pre-empted this last term, the children were sent home with workbooks and online lessons access.”

A Facebook statement from Suzanne Tryner, headteacher at Farmilo Primary School, Mansfield, said: “We’ve taken the difficult decision to only partially re-open.

"Whilst we believe that the best place for all children is school with friends, learning, we feel the risk is too high at the moment and we have a duty of care to everyone in our school community. From Monday (today) the school will re-open for children of key workers and the most vulnerable children.”

Ms Julie Jenkins headteacher at Northfield Primary, Mansfield Woodhouse said: “We called an emergency INSET day today and are putting plans in place to open school tomorrow for certain year groups, key worker and vulnerable children.”

Councillor Philip Owen, Chairman of the Children and Young People’s committee at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “Headteachers are best placed to make this decision on behalf of the pupils and staff, and we will advise and support where necessary. Headteachers will carry out risk assessments which will determine if their school is safe to open.

"The decision about whether to issue fines for non-attendance is a matter for each school, not the county council. Parents can be assured that all appropriate measures will be in place, we will help families who need additional support, continue to monitor the situation closely, and follow government guidelines.”

UNISON’s branch organiser for Nottinghamshire Jo Myers said: “This virus has mutated, we believe strongly the risk assessments head teachers are using are out of date, the risk is different now, post Christmas.”