Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union

As of the 16th of October, the infection rate in secondary schools is now 17 times higher than it was on the 1st of September. Considering this alarming data, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries' of the National Education Union, have written to Gavin Williamson asking him to take decisive action to curb this trend, including the possibility of a rota system for secondary schools and colleges in Teir 2 and Teir 3. 

The NEU has produced a document looking at the pros and cons of a rota system. 
Mary Bousted 750Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  
"We now have a situation where the infection rate in secondary schools is 17 times higher than on the 1st of September.  This is alarming and it is crucial that Government looks at all potential measures to stabilise the situation including the possibility of a rota-based system for secondary schools and colleges as outlined in the Government’s August guidelines
'A rota system will ensure smaller class sizes making social distancing achievable. The strain on public transport in the mornings and afternoons will be less and the social mixing after school will also be reduced. 

'Schools and colleges are already struggling to cope with current infection rates resulting in many students or whole year bubbles being sent home to self-isolate. If this trend continues and nothing is put in place to try and reduce infection levels, our education system will be plunged into disarray.
'Our schools need a clear way forward that ensures education can continue in a planned and coherent way. No decisions will be easy, but to just keep ignoring the data and drifting into higher infection rates with the increased erratic closure of schools and colleges is not an option. 

'We look forward to hearing from Gavin Williamson to discuss our proposals further". 

Full text of letter below:


22 October 2020



Dear Gavin

We are concerned both by reports from our members working in secondary schools that the increasing incidence of pupils having to isolate either because they have, or have been in close contact with someone who has Covid, is increasing rapidly, and by the figures from the ONS suggesting that secondary school aged pupils are showing the greatest rise in Covid cases, which underlies what our members are reporting. 


Irregular attendance causes a wide range of systemic and individual problems for schools and colleges and for pupils. Members tell us that even when in school pupils are distracted and unsettled because of their different, and irregular, periods of absence, and that standards of discipline are declining. We were particularly concerned, yesterday, to see that the attendance figures for secondary pupils in some areas of high deprivation, were so low – Knowsley at 61% attendance and Calderdale at 64%, being two key examples.


We would now appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss ways in which the situation could be improved.


In particular, we want to explore with you the potential of moving to rotas in secondary schools, for older pupils.  This move is envisaged in the DfE’s tiers of intervention. We are of the view that it is now necessary to consider having the conversation with civic leaders and school leaders on what these rotas should look like. Rotas will enable better social distancing in schools, and proper, regularised arrangements to be made to enable high quality blended learning to be planned for and delivered.


We think this is an important discussion given the recent large increase in cases in secondary schools and the modelling for SAGE which suggest that alternating week-on, week - of school closure with half class sizes could have a significant effect on transmission - equivalent to closing all hospitality venues. 


We are gaining very good information from our members who are operating rotas in their colleges. There are examples of very good practice which are worth sharing and disseminating throughout the profession.


Teachers would be in school every day and would teach their normal timetable, but half the children would be being taught remotely in any one week. These children would, however, be taught every lesson.


We would be pleased to meet with you urgently to discuss rotas.


With best wishes



Mary Bousted                                                    Kevin Courtney

Joint General Secretary                                   Joint General Secretary

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page