Yorkshire schools facing 'chaos' over open policy amid coronavirus fears

A lack of clear direction about pupil and staff safety amid the coronavirus epidemic is putting teachers under 'intolerable pressure', a union leader has said.

Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 4:51 pm

Government advice to keep schools open is causing "chaos and confusion", amid fears pupils are carrying the virus, according to NASUWT Teacher's union head Chris Keates.

Ms Keates said that while the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's public announcement yesterday underlined the deepening gravity of the situation with regard to COVID-19, and the national and global crisis, it didn't give clear directions necessary for schools at this urgent time.

“Unfortunately, his statement failed to give the clear and definitive directions necessary to enable individuals, organisations and services to be confident in the decisions they are making or to provide the reassurance and assurance that people need at this time," she said.

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Chris Keates, head of NASWUT Teacher's union. Credit: PA

“All of the announcements continue to be couched as guidance or advice which is simply serving to increase anxiety and uncertainty."

This confusion was reflected across Yorkshire schools today with some full or partial school closures.

Ossett Academy, part of Accord Academy Trust, implemented a partial closure, with Y10 pupils not expected to attend the school, according to a statement posted on its website yesterday.

Meanwhile in Wakefield, Outwood Academies Trust confirmed to The Yorkshire Post they had no partial closures today.

However a spokesman said the Trust, which operates 32 academies, are prepared if face-to-face teaching is suspended. The Trust will utilise Google Classroom which can can replicate classes, distribute work, grade and send feedback to students.

“We are preparing to provide work for our students should we have to close the academy for any length of time and we are well-prepared for this situation," the spokesman said.

Dixons Academy Trust, which operates schools across Bradford and Leeds, reported to The Yorkshire Post the Trust's schools remain open.

But pupils should not attend school if they are at risk they are a member of a vulnerable group, for example they have a chronic immunodeficiency or respiratory condition or if they or a member of the household have a fever and a new and continuous cough, in which case the whole household should now be self-isolating for 14 days.

However Bridlington School in Bradford has partially closed and the school will only continue to remain open to students in Years 11 and 13 only.

And in Sheffield Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School is to remain closed ‘until further notice,’ according to a statement posted on its website yesterday.

Head teacher Martyn Cooper said: “It is with great regret and sadness that we have taken the decision to close the school until further notice.

“Following the Government announcement today of who should self-isolate or ensure social distance, we have analysed the staffing and concluded that there is a significant number of staff who will not be able to come to school."

Amidst this confusion for school Ms Keates has urged the Government to make a definitive decision about the steps being taken to protect the school workforce and the closure of schools.

“Schools are struggling with ever diminishing staffing levels and are being driven to make arrangements for changes to staff working conditions which have the potential to compromise the health and safety of staff and pupils.

"This situation cannot be allowed to continue," she said.