National NEU Weekly Update

Week Ending 3/4/2020

We have continued to respond to the Covid-19 crisis.

In a letter to Sunday Times (£) signed by both of us we stressed the importance of health and safety for all those still in school. We reasserted our call for PPE equipment in the TES on Wednesday, and the joint guidance with NAHT and ASCL is still gaining coverage via the I and Schools Week.

Our comment on the National Voucher Scheme for children on free school meals was picked up by Schools WeekTESSecEdMorning Star and Children & Young People Now. A Press Association story looked at the implications for Easter.

Our advice to members on distance learning was reported by TES, Schools Week, SecEdEducation Executive and the I. Mary also wrote a blog for TES to introduce it, setting out the realistic expectations for teachers over the coming weeks.

Week Ending 27/3/2020

This week has again been dominated by Coronavirus, and particularly the efforts at school level to make sense of the new working environment. Last weekend for instance we were widely quoted with our reaction to the publication of the key workers list, e.g. the Guardianthe I and the Daily Mail.

We as a union have issued lots of guidance, including a joint document with ASCL and NAHT. Ahead of our meeting with Gavin Williamson on Tuesday we stated the case for increased health and safety in schools, which has resulted in positive progress and improved guidance from the DfE (see BBCSchools Week and TES). We also anticipated Rishi Sunak’s announcement for self-employed workers with commentary on the plight of supply teachers.

Mary wrapped up the week with a blog for TES about the realistic expectations for teachers during this crisis.

Our press releases for the week are available here.

Week Ending 20/3/2020

In an uncertain and unsettling week, it has been our priority to ensure members’ views are heard and that we are at the forefront of media coverage.  Our media monitoring service clearly demonstrates that this is proving effective, with our ‘mentions’ larger than all other education unions combined.

Our activities since Saturday include:

  • A letter to Boris Johnson asking for the evidence base for keeping schools open. This was picked up by every national newspaper and across radio bulletins on both BBC and independent stations. You can read the letter here.
  • On Sunday, we called on Amanda Spielman to cease Ofsted inspections altogether during the Coronavirus crisis. You can read the TES story here and the letter here. By Wednesday, Ofsted had acquiesced.
  • We sent a further letter to the Prime Minister on Tuesday. This had a huge impact, putting pressure on the Government to make a clear and urgent decision on at least the partial closure of schools. As the first union to explicitly make such a call, it was strongly taken up by the media with quotes in all papers and across bulletins. Read the letter here and the Guardian story here.
  • A decision on closures was anticipated during much of Wednesday, with the announcement made in the Commons just after 5pm. Kevin appeared in the morning on BBC News Channel and Sky News All Out Politics, then later Channel 4 News and pre-records for ITN and Newsnight (from 12:00). Mary was live on World Tonight (R4; from about 14:00), 5Live Drive Time and Eddie Mair (LBC). Other NEU spokespersons were fielded to Good Morning Britain and across local radio. Our quick reaction to the confirmation of closures was across all early evening bulletins.
  • Mary also featured in the peak time BBC2 documentary Taking Control: The Dominic Cummings Story, in which she was interviewed by Emily Maitlis (Skip to around 26:30). Her comments were picked up by Alastair Campbell in his GQ review, also the I, the Times(£) and industry paper Broadcast.
  • Thursday began with a blog for Schools Week reflecting on questions that remained unanswered after the Government’s announcement that day before. During the day Rosamund McNeil sat down for an extended BBC News Channel Q&A about the impact of closures, while Nansi Ellis took two hours of local radio interviews.
  • Our concerns for young people in need of school meals, and not just those on FSM, were picked up in the press for Thursday into Friday. An example of the Press Association story is here. We also spoke about the plight of children with EHCP and gave early reaction to the key workers list (released at midnight) which has created uncertainty around the viability of school closures, as local colleagues work quickly to establish numbers at school level. You can read our comment here.

Week Ending 13/3/2020

Coronavirus continues to dominate the news headlines including the Chancellor’s budget on Wednesday. While we recognised its importance the media, including the Guardian picked up on our message about the woeful situation schools find themselves in due to a lack of funding. Click here for our full press release.

A report by EPI giving an analysis of funding generated a number of regional stories the majority of which carried our quote. Our press release is here.

Week Ending 6/3/2020

The Teachers’ Pension Scheme is under threat in many independent schools, with staff at Colfe’s in Greenwich on strike this week. This was picked up by Independent Education TodayMoney Marketing and TES, and our press release is here. We also commented in the Sunday Telegraph on the tax bills facing some teachers who exceed their ‘annual allowance’ for pension savings.

Our petition hand-in at Downing Street to raise awareness about the crisis in maintained nurseries was reported by the ITES and in a preview exclusive for the Observer.

We also signed up to a letter to the Chancellor calling for an extra £5.5bn in next week’s budget to meet the needs of ‘struggling’ schools. This was picked up in the Guardian.

An EPI report this week looked at an international comparison of technical education. We commented on this in FE Week, and our press release is here.

The TES reported on £123m having been spent on bursaries for trainee teachers who did not then work in state schools. Mary was quoted.

The developing story of coronavirus has dominated the headlines all week. The NEU has expressed concerns about class sizes being dramatically increased as a temporary measure, while sister unions have been calling for forthcoming tests to be postponed and more action to counter incidents targeting BAME staff and students. NEU was mentioned in the following reports:

3 March: The Daily TelegraphTES

4 March: IndependentEd ExecMorning Star

5 March: Independent

6 March: The Daily Telegraph