Denying teachers of PPE is 'dodgy' says union leader

12 April 2020, 10:41

Dr Roach described the decision to not give teachers PPE as "dodgy"
Dr Roach described the decision to not give teachers PPE as "dodgy". Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Government advice that denies teachers of adequate PPE during the coronavirus pandemic is "dodgy" and "unhelpful", a union leader has said.

Patrick Roach, the new general secretary of the NASUWT, criticised the government's latest coronavirus advice on schools that suggests teachers do not need personal protective equipment while at work.

School staff, who are still required to come in after the Easter break to teach the children of critical workers or vulnerable pupils, have warned they do not have enough soap and water to wash their hands.

Mr Roach said a number of teachers on the front line are calling for access to PPE and Covid-19 testing due to concerns about the health of their families.

However, government advice, updated earlier this week, said school, college and nursery workers "do not require" the equipment and should instead continue to abide by social distancing measures and hand washing.

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A teachers' union is urging the government to provide school staff with PPE
A teachers' union is urging the government to provide school staff with PPE. Picture: PA

But Dr Roach questioned the advice, saying: "Our concern as a union is that in the midst of a crisis in supply and demand, guidance is being published which asserts that teachers in any setting do not require access to PPE."

He added: "The reality of the matter is that practising stringent social distancing in the context of working with young children, and working with children with moderate or profound learning difficulties, is going to be, to say the least, very challenging for a teacher."

Read more: Nurses told to refuse to treat coronavirus patients unless they are given adequate PPE

In a recent survey of 950 NASUWT members, nearly a third - 32 per cent - of workers said there were insufficient supplies of soap and hot water in their workplace.

Dr Roach said: "[Teachers] are being asked, when the rest of the country is being asked to stay at home, to leave their homes on a daily basis to support children of key workers and vulnerable children.

"We think there is an obligation on the Government to listen to that concern from the profession about providing access to PPE."

He also warned that learning could be "compromised" if the government "rush" to reopen schools to all pupils without consulting teachers on the process.

Dr Roach added that asking students to return to school during the summer break, which runs from mid-July to late August, to start the academic year early could lead to pupil burn-out.

He said: "We wouldn't want to see children becoming casualties of this Covid-19 situation."

His warning came after heads suggested that schools reopen for a period before the summer holidays, rather than September, if the scientific advice says it is safe to do so.

Schools in England closed three weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak. There is no indication yet as to when they may be able to reopen.

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