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School leaders ready to welcome all pupils back to class on Monday

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools, said:

“Schools leaders and their teams are really looking forward to welcoming pupils back this week, having worked hard over the summer to create a safe and happy environment for learning.

“Following changes to government guidance schools will be operating very differently from last term. New guidance no longer requires every school to maintain ‘bubbles’ of pupils and they will no longer be primarily responsible for contact tracing if cases occur. There is now an increased emphasis on good ventilation in classrooms, which follows the scientific advice that this is important in reducing risk of transmission.

“Yet the warnings from scientists about a potential rise in cases when schools return mean that it is essential the government responds rapidly should the data suggest it is necessary to implement additional safety measures in schools. In the past the response has simply been too slow – we must not see a return of that this year.

“School leaders will continue to work extremely hard to keep schools as safe as possible, but they will need support and clear direction from central government and Local Public Health teams to do so. Poor quality and inadequate guidance remains a major concern for school leaders.

“We continue to call on government to be more proactive when it comes to practical safety measures such as ventilation. Up to now that is best summed up as ‘open a window’ and ‘work outside, where you can’ but that won’t be practical as it gets colder.

“CO2 monitors are a step in the right direction but we need them to be in schools now, not in warehouses awaiting delivery. With the recommendation from JVCI not to vaccinate all younger teens, ventilation continues to be a critical part of schools’ efforts to maintain a safe working and learning environment. The government must do more to ensure that any school looking to improve ventilation is given the financial support to make the necessary improvements or repairs immediately.”

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