National NEU Weekly Update
Week Ending 18/9/2020
Kevin wrote a column for the Morning Star on Monday, marking TUC Congress, in which he discussed child poverty. Mary’s speech was referenced in Sky News reports. We also contributed to a black workers debate, with our senior vice president quoted in reports, and Kevin spoke during a debate about international workers.
A joint letter to Gavin Williamson about pay, signed by the general secretaries of ASCL, NAHT, NEU and Voice, was sent this week. You can view it here and reports appeared in Sec Ed, Morning Star, Education Executive and on Labour List.
Kevin spoke to Tuesday’s Guardian about the urgent need for more testing and its availability to schools. Mary commented witheringly to the Daily Mail about Boris Johnson’s remarks to the Commons’ Liaison Committee about how schools should approach testing and isolating. Her words to Schools Week about the Government’s website coding error can be read here.
Meanwhile, the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and school leaders during the pandemic was the subject of an Education Support-commissioned survey, which we commented on here.
A new campaign to improve air quality around schools was lunched this week, with NEU one of its supporters. Education Business reported on it here. It was also covered by Sec Ed and the Daily Express.
Today saw the release of the IFS’s annual report, yet another demonstration of the underfunding in education by successive Conservative governments. Read our comment here and it was widely picked up, including the Guardian, TES and again here, Education Executive, Exec Review and BBC News.
Week Ending 11/9/2020
On Sunday we spoke to the Mirror about the Government’s failure to heed our calls in the summer for retired to teachers to be brought back to support schools in the safe running of classrooms. Mary also talked to the Observer about slow action from Government on their National Tutoring Programme.
During the week we responded to stories about cases emerging since the full opening of schools, and access to testing, on BBC News, the I, TES, the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Morning Star and Press Association.
Our comment on the OECD’s publication of their annual Education at a Glance report, is available here.
Mary’s latest column for SecEd assesses the exam results fiasco of August, and the flawed assumptions baked into the system. Please read and share.
Week Ending 4/9/2020
We ended last week with a joint letter calling on Gavin Williamson to take swift action to arrange an independent inquiry into this summer’s disastrous exam results process. The general secretaries of the NAHT, ASCL, NASUWT and NEU all signed the letter and this was reported by Schools Week, the I, the Press Association and Metro.
On Saturday Kevin spoke to Politics Home ahead of the full opening of schools, and we reacted to the overnight release of new, belated guidance from Government advising schools on a “Plan B”. This included a breakfast interview on LBC (quoted in bulletins throughout the day), while Mary’s appearance on BBC News Channel made its way into local and national radio and TV bulletins from mid-afternoon onward. We featured in hourly independent radio bulletins following an additional interview Mary did with LBC, and we remained in the headlines until late evening. We are also quoted in news stories from the BBC, ITV , the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Telegraph.
Our reaction to the Government guidance continued into Sunday, with pick up in the Independent, ITV, Press Association, the Daily Mail and the Guardian. When Labour proposed that next year’s exams should be delayed, we issued this statement and spoke live to LBC and Times Radio. Our comment later appeared in the Yorkshire Post, the Daily Telegraph (via MSN) and the Morning Star.
Monday brought renewed interest in the re-opening of schools, and we were quoted in opposition to parental fines for non-attendance on radio bulletins throughout the morning, and well into Tuesday, with further comment appearing in the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. Monday also saw the publication of an NFER report on lockdown learning (our comment in TES and BBC) and a survey of teachers’ concerns about going back (see our quote in the TES story).
On Tuesday Mary spoke to the Today Programme as schools began to re-open (listen from 49:20 here), and in the afternoon, live to BBC News Channel about what we need to see in Government planning for 2021 exams. Her Today interview was quoted in the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and on the BBC. We were again quoted on fines for parents by the Evening Standard, Press Association, LBC and ITV .
Our incoming national president Robin Bevan wrote a coruscating column for Thursday’s Guardian which took Government to task for not listening to and persistently failing school leaders throughout Covid. Please read and share.
Week Ending 21/8/2020
Last Friday we gained coverage for our petition calling on Gavin Williamson to take action to avert a repeat of this year’s exam results fiasco in 2021. See the stories in TES, the BBC and Morning Star. Mary set out our reasoning in a blog for Left Foot Forward. The petition had reached 25,000 signatures in its first day.
On Sunday, Public Health England published its long-awaited study which weighed up the risk of schools opening fully in September. Our full comment is here and we fielded many broadcast interviews including LBC, which was picked up widely on independent local stations. A live interview on Sky News with Kevin was clipped through the day. Our call for a Plan B was quoted across national and local BBC Radio bulletins from lunchtime and was the top headline on hourly bulletins by evening and into the small hours, both on the BBC and independent radio. This totalled 600 mentions of our Plan B call on radio in the space of just 24 hours. We were also quoted in reports on the Daily Mail (with video), a widely used Press Association story, the Evening Standard, Morning Star, the I and a further wave of stories about Boris Johnson’s message to worried parents in the Guardian, Financial Times (£), Daily Telegraph (£), the Independent, Press Association, ITV News, Sky News and BBC News, as well as a round of morning bulletins for Monday breakfast.
The PHE report was hot on the heels of a World Health Organisation statement on Friday which called for wider use of face coverings and medical-grade masks for over-60s and otherwise vulnerable staff. Scotland listened and had implemented the advice by Monday, but there were two days of dither and delay by the Westminster Government.
There were many broadcast interviews on Monday from NEU speakers discussing safety in schools on the cusp of re-opening, including 5Live Breakfast, Talk Radio, BBC News Channel, Sky News, ITV Lunchtime News, Times Radio (quoted in the Express story), Bloomberg and the hat trick of BBC One’s 1pm, 6pm and 10pm news slots. Together this work ensured a regular presence in hourly bulletins on radio and television throughout the day. We were also quoted in the Daily Express, Metro, Independent, Daily Mail, TES, Evening Standard, Schools Week, Guardian (as well as in their leader) and the Daily Mirror.
On Tuesday the school re-openings story rolled on, as we spoke to NPR in America and the AFP in France. We also commented on the delayed and staggered release of BTEC grades, with a quote in the Press Association story and the Guardian. There was late breaking news that day with the resignation of Sally Collier from Ofqual and the Government’s latest u-turn on face masks in schools. Kevin gave live reaction to the former on BBC News Channel, and Mary to LBC on the latter. Our release on Ofqual is here and Mary’s comments to LBC on school safety were clipped on bulletins throughout the night. We were also quoted on face masks in the Daily Mirror, Metro, Guardian, Morning Star, Press Association (via Daily Mail), MSN and the I, and on Ofqual by the TES, Education Executive and Press Association (via Daily Mail).
Our reaction to the updated guidance on face coverings continued into Wednesday, and this was quoted by Metro and TES. Kevin also wrote a column for the Daily Mirror. You can listen to Kevin on Times Radio breakfast here and his appearances on Sky News Breakfast and BBC News Channel are available to download here for the next few days. Kevin’s Sky appearance was clipped across independent radio bulletins, and remarks that the Government lacked the confidence of teachers made it onto Radio 4’s The World at One. Mary also spoke to LBC News (here), Kevin with the Press Association and he rounded off the day with a live appearance on Channel 4 News where he was invited to comment on Jonathan Slater’s departure from the DfE. Mary spoke to the Guardian on the same subject, and this was picked up by Politics Home, and the Daily Mail.
We also provided a guest for a BBC News Channel discussion with supply teachers about the difficulties for schools in trying to maintain bubbles with temporary staff, and our reaction to Boris Johnson’s bizarre speech to a group of students – in which he spoke of a ‘mutant algorithm’ causing disruption to exam results – was widely quoted and chosen as Press Association’s quote of the day (story here). It appeared in the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail, TES, Guardian, Daily Telegraph (£), Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Metro, and on LBC News.
Our comment on the Wales decision on face masks was picked up by Press Association and BBC Wales. We also commented on the Education Policy Institute’s report on the disadvantage gap in education, and how it was worsening even before the pandemic. On this subject, Kevin’s Sky News Radio interview appeared on almost 200 morning bulletins, and our press release was quoted in the Guardian, BBC News, Children and Young People Now, and Politics Home.
Week Ending 21/8/2020
Since the last e-bulletin, the NEU has been extremely active in the media dealing with regular questions about school openings and the Government’s catastrophic handling of this year’s exam results.
In late July we commented on the inconsistent messages around face masks (Guardian, Daily Telegraph (£), Evening Standard, TES) and the cost of shredding SATs papers (Schools Week). We also continued to call for a Plan B from Government on school openings (Evening Standard, BBC 5Live), talked about the plight of trainee teachers (Guardian) and spoke to LBC about free school meals.
In early August we featured in a weekend of national and local radio bulletins about school openings, and in reports on the same issue from the BBC, Independent, Daily Mail, FT, TES, Daily Mirror, Press Association, Huffington Post and Daily Telegraph (£). We spoke to the Financial Times (£) and Guardian about the impact of Covid on exams season, and reacted to an EPI analysis of school funding which cast doubt on the credibility of Government claims that they were ‘levelling up’ (Guardian , BBC, Press Association and Morning Star).
The fall-out from Scotland results day lasted a week, after which attention turned to the plight of England’s students. On Thursday 13 August a huge number of downgrades were confirmed, leading to widespread anger and much controversy. Mary spoke to BBC News Channel and Sky News on the day, and these interviews were clipped in bulletins on BBC and independent radio at lunchtime and long into the evening. Other NEU spokespersons appeared on Channel 4 News, Talk Radio, Radio 2, LBC, Times Radio, Sky News and BBC News Channel across the week, and these too appeared in hourly radio and TV bulletins. Mary was quoted across BBC Radio throughout the following weekend, and NEU spokespersons continued this into Monday.
Meanwhile the Government has been under scrutiny for quoting and allegedly misrepresenting a PHE study on the spread of Covid-19 amongst children. Mary commented in the I, while Avis Gilmore renewed our calls for a Plan B in a story by Press Association. Mary’s tweets on the subject were also quoted in Schools Week.
In the past seven days we have written to Sunday Times about the lack of a Plan B for schools, and were at the forefront of discussion around the belated U-turn on England exam results by Gavin Williamson. Mary spoke to Sky News in anticipation of the latter, and LBC and 5Live immediately after it was confirmed by the education secretary. These interviews were picked up for independent and BBC radio bulletins.
We also provided comment to a wide range of news outlets during the days of speculation before and after A-Level results day: on John Swinney’s decision for BBC News, Press Association, Sky News, ITV News, Evening Standard and TES; the last-minute ‘triple lock’ in the I, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Press Association, BBC News; the fall-out of results day in Evening Standard, Daily Mail, FT (£) and Independent amongst others; the withdrawal of Ofqual advice on The World This Weekend (from 12:54); and the eventual u-turn in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Evening Standard, TES , Morning Star, Guardian , Daily Telegraph and Yorkshire Post amongst others. A handy chronology was published in the TES.
By Wednesday we had written to Gavin Williamson calling for swift action to ensure this does not happen again in 2021. You can read the full letter here, and reports about it featured on Press Association, TES, Metro, the Daily Telegraph (£), Daily Mail and ITV Evening News and News at Ten. Our petition was also launched.
You can read all our recent press releases here.
Week Ending 24/7/2020
On Monday we responded to the Government’s announcement on school funding for 2021, drawing attention to how this fails to make up for losses since 2010. See Mary’s full comment here and it was quoted in this Children and Young People Now report.
We welcomed Ofqual’s statements at its Summer Symposium on Tuesday about its confidence in this year’s GCSE and A-Level results. Nansi Ellis was quoted in the BBC and Guardian stories, and you can read her full statement here.
In Pink News on Wednesday there was an extended tribute to Tony Fenwick MBE, a leading figure behind LGBT+ History Month and Schools Out UK as well as a prominent union activist, who sadly died on 8 July. Kevin’s tribute is quoted in the article.
Week Ending 17/7/2020
We responded to an NFER poll issued on Tuesday detailing the experience of GCSE and A-Level students under lockdown. We commented in the TES and SecEd, and our press release is here. Mary was quoted in a story at the weekend about an Education Select Committee report into fairness in the exams system.
Mary also spoke to the TES about Government ambitions for the National Tutoring Programme, and Niamh Sweeney contributed to an Observer report on post-16 funding. Niamh also appeared on The Moral Maze to debate ‘how and why we educate?’ (from 17:04).
Meanwhile, a Parentkind poll of parents showed that the majority want a say in the circumstances behind their child’s return to school in September. We were quoted in the Press Association story which got wide pick up. It was also reported by TES. Our full comment is here.
Finally, today’s TES poll delivers a damning end-of-term verdict on the Government’s handling of Covid-19. Mary was invited to comment.
Week Ending 10/7/2020
The NEU was mentioned in Guardian article urging in the light of COVID 19 and lockdown for the suspension of League Tables
The House of Lords Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee report published on Monday stated that food for many families was too expensive and unhealthy we were quoted in the Daily Mail saying this should serve as a ‘wake up call’ to Government.
Gavin Williamson’s announcement of a renewed focus on FE was widely reported. We welcomed the news but of course the devil is always in the detail and we await the White Paper in September. PoliticsHome story here.
The NEU was quoted in a Huffington Post article on Government’s disheartening response to campaigning group Black Curriculums calls for mandatory teaching of colonial and Black British history in schools.
A supportive article in the Telegraph for the need to abandon SATs tests next year mentions the More Than A score petition.
Week Ending 3/7/2020
On Saturday, Mary featured in a Schools Week story speculating on what the situation might be for currently shielding staff come September. Kevin meanwhile spoke to the Financial Times in a piece about the widespread doubts within the profession about the viability of a full return for all pupils in the autumn.
In an effort to correct course on the Government’s disastrous handling of schools, Boris Johnson on Sunday threatened parents with fines if they did not return their children to school in September, irrespective of safety fears. Our reaction was quoted in the Guardian, Daily Express, ITV News and in local press via Press Association.
On Monday we spoke to LBC in the morning about the need for clear guidance ahead of September openings. By mid-afternoon, the guidance had been leaked in draft form to the Huffington Post. We commented in the follow-up stories by the Guardian and the Daily Mail. In the TES, Mary described it as ‘a plan for schools in England that don’t exist’. We also commented on the Prime Minister’s plan to regenerate school buildings, noting with bitter irony that this week is the tenth anniversary of the Coalition Government abolishing Building Schools for the Future. Our press release is here and this was quoted in the Children & Young People Now report.
The lockdown of Leicester led to Mary commenting in a TES story on Tuesday that Matt Hancock’s own words in interviews are a tacit admission that wider opening of schools does indeed have safety repercussions for the local community. Also that day, we joined forces with NAHT and Early Education to write to the Prime Minister about the plight of maintained nursery schools and the urgent need for additional funding.
The formal release of the DfE’s guidance was on Thursday morning. By then, Kevin had already done the rounds on Sky News and BBC News Channel, and followed its release with The World at One (listen from 12:25), ITV Lunchtime News, a further live interview for BBC News Channel, as well as the evening report on Sky News. Mary spoke to LBC, and clips of Kevin could be heard on independent local radio bulletins throughout the day. We were also in BBC bulletins during the evening, both national and local. Our full comment is here and this was quoted by Press Association, Daily Telegraph, Reuters, Morning Star, Daily Mail, Financial Times, the Spectator and SecEd. We also reacted that day to Ofqual’s opening of a consultation on exams and assessment in 2021 – read our thoughts on that here and we were quoted in the Guardian and the BBC story here.
Week Ending 26/6/2020
Too late for last week’s bulletin was our reaction to the Prime Minister’s claims on Friday afternoon that all pupils will be back five-days-a-week from September. Our press release was read out in full on Sky News, quoted in many independent local radio bulletins, and incorporated into Branwen Jeffreys’ early evening report for BBC Radio 4. We were also in a widely used Press Association report, and in stories for the Daily Mail, BBC News Online and Schools Week.
Kevin was on Saturday’s edition of the Today Programme to discuss wider opening and the risks involved (from 35:45 here). We also spoke to LBC, and that was clipped through the day.
A Mail on Sunday report on Gavin Williamson’s handling of the crisis, as well as the summer plan proposed by Lord Adonis, included comment from Kevin. He was quoted on the same story in the I, the Sun and the Times (£).
On Monday SecEd published Kevin’s blog on what is needed this summer, and beyond. You can read it here.
In the Commons on Tuesday, Boris Johnson confirmed his decision to reduce social distancing to one-metre plus. Our full reaction is here and it was quoted by TES, Schools Week, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Morning Star (£), SecEd the Daily Telegraph and Press Association. An additional TES piece, quoting Mary, asked if the Department for Education understands how schools work…
It emerged on Wednesday that the £1bn catch-up fund for schools will be spread evenly across the country, regardless of where there may be higher numbers of disadvantaged pupils. Mary was quoted in the TES report.
Leaked reports to the Daily Telegraph on Thursday indicated that social distancing in schools will be abolished by September. This comment from the union was picked up by the Reach agency (an example in the MEN here) and Evening Standard. The Government also quietly confirmed that statutory Baseline Assessment will be delayed until autumn 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19 on schools – read our reaction here and the story in Nursery World. School census data released yesterday showed an increase in the number of pupils in classes of 31+. We commented here, and our lines were picked up by the Guardian and Press Association.
Week Ending 19/6/2020
A major u-turn on free school meals for the summer took the headlines this week, with footballer Marcus Rashford making a major and highly effective intervention. Kevin backed him in a Press Association report on Monday, as well as in the Guardian , Independent , Daily Telegraph , Metro and Evening Standard, and we welcomed the Government change of heart on Tuesday here. Our reaction was picked up by the Guardian, Daily Mail and various local papers (example).
The wider opening of secondary schools began on Monday. We spoke to Sky News.
Much of this week was spent awaiting the formal announcement of the Government’s much-trumpeted “catch up” plan for summer. Mary spoke to the Guardian on Saturday about the lack of communication between unions and the department. She also responded to rumours about extra tuition in Wednesday’s online Guardian story (also quoted in the Today Programme’s papers round-up on Thursday). We responded to Friday’s £1bn package for schools here and Kevin spoke to ITV’s This Morning, ITV Lunchtime News, 5 News and the Guardian. We were picked up by Press Association also.
Our call for action to tackle racism continued to receive coverage this week, including a TES report on comments by Amanda Spielman. We wrote to the Prime Minister on Monday. This was written up by both TES and Schools Week.
Teachers are the most anxious key workers during the Covid crisis, according to a YouGov survey. Mary commented in the TES report.
We were proud to welcome the Reverend Jesse Jackson to our Black Lives Matter webinar on Zoom this past Monday. Press Association wrote a report that was picked up by various outlets including the Evening Standard. You can view the whole meeting here.
Wednesday’s education select committee appearance by Mary was covered widely – stories on BBC News, Press Association, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Sky News, TES , Guardian, Independent and Yahoo News amongst others, and most radio bulletins throughout the afternoon and evening. Mary also spoke live to Channel 4 News. You can watch the whole committee session here.
Finally, we were greatly saddened to announce the death on Monday of Fred Jarvis, General Secretary of the NUT between 1975-89. Our statement is here and you can read a substantial obituary in the Guardian. Tributes also featured in the Daily Telegraph (£), the Times (£), TES and Schools Week, and we’re sure there will be many more to follow.
Week Ending 12/6/2020
Last weekend saw continued coverage of decisions by schools and councils in the north west to refuse to open more widely, over safety concerns. Read the BBC story here. The NEU also contributed to stories on local TV and radio.
Mary spoke to The World at One on Monday during an extended feature about the continued debates on wider opening, summer learning, and the plight of disadvantaged pupils. You can listen to Mary here from 6:40. She also spoke to the TES about reports of lesson observations during the crisis.
On Tuesday the Government published its statistics on school attendance for the first full week of wider opening. We commented in this press statement, and you can read a report in Nursery World. The Government also scrapped plans to bring all primary pupils back before the summer break – many local radio bulletins quoted NEU voices throughout the day. We also spoke to Nick Ferrari on LBC about concerns that schools may not fully re-open in September. By early evening Mary was appearing across most radio bulletins, both national and local.
Kevin spoke to the Commons Education Select Committee on Wednesday, to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on education. You can watch the full session here, live tweeting from Schools Week is here, and there were reports on Kevin’s comments in the Daily Mirror, the Sun, Evening Standard, BBC, Daily Mail, Metro, the Independent , Guardian, Radio 4’s Today in Parliament, the next morning’s Yesterday In Parliament, on 5Live and many independent radio news bulletins. Mary commented on next year’s exam planning in Monday’s TES story, and with 5Live Breakfast about concerns over September opening (skip to 1:41:42 here).
The Black Lives Matters protests continue and have provoked a debate in England about the history curriculum. We issued a statement on Wednesday, which was reported by Guardian and TES, and NEU Senior Vice President Daniel Kebede reflected on the issues in a blog for Indy100. Ros McNeil also spoke to the Guardian earlier in the week.
Our proposals for a National Education Recovery Plan were launched on Thursday, in the form of a letter to the Prime Minister. You can read that and the accompanying press release here. There were reports in TES, Children and Young People Now, Daily Mirror, Morning Star, Guardian and Evening Standard. We also spoke to Victoria Derbyshire on Tuesday about the urgent need for a plan from Government. We were both quoted in a Sun story about summer openings, and the NEU featured in Guardian, Daily Telegraph, TES and Financial Times articles about getting back.
Week Ending 5/6/2020
Saturday’s Times front page suggested that the vast majority of schools would open on Monday “in defiance” of the NEU. It soon emerged this was not the case. See reports in the Independent, the I, Daily Express, Daily Mail, Schools Week, TES, Morning Star, Western Mail, Reach and Press Association (via Daily Mail), and it was also covered by The World at One, BBC News Channel and Channel 5 News. Additional research published on the Guardian front page on Thursday supported our findings that openings were significantly down in the north east and north west, where Coronavirus levels are highest. From this data Kevin was able to assert that heads, like the union, are following the science rather than politicians. Our poll and the accompanying data are available here.
Senior Sky reporter Jon Craig read our joint statement on air, regarding the SAGE scientists speaking out against lockdown decisions – this also got picked up on news bulletins, including all national and local BBC Radio stations throughout Saturday evening. Mary spoke about the statement on BBC News Channel and LBC, Kevin was clipped on BBC Radio, and the Press Association story was used by many outlets including the Daily Mail.
The Observer’s extensive piece on how the north east is reacting to the easing of lockdown featured the NEU’s Emma Parker. You can read it here.
Mary made an appearance on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, on the eve of wider opening. You can watch it here and her remarks were picked up by Sky News Radio, which covers dozens of independent stations, throughout the rest of the day. The interview also featured in reports by the Independent, Morning Star and Daily Mirror. It also sparked a reaction from the newly unveiled ‘fake news’ rebuttal unit within the DfE, which was quickly shown to be peddling fake news itself; see Schools Week to find out who was really telling the truth.
We were across all Monday morning radio bulletins and some press/online, including Metro, Financial Times and BBC. Kevin also spoke live to BBC News Channel at the end of what had been the first day back for many children, and we were quoted by the BBC’s education editor Branwen Jeffreys in various evening reports including The World Tonight.
On Wednesday Kirsty Williams made the decision to open all schools in Wales from 29 June. We commented in earlier speculative stories (e.g. BBC News) and following the education minister’s announcement made our disappointment known, that this was “too much, too soon” (e.g. ITV News, the I, Children and Young People Now and Press Association via Daily Mail).
An important study of poverty caused by the pandemic was published by the IPPR this week – we commented, and this was picked up by Metro. The NEU also featured in this TES story about vulnerable staff under pressure to return to the classroom, and a Pensions Age report about our FOI concerning the plight of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme in private schools. A widely used Press Association report on delays to compulsory RSE featured our comment, cropping up in the Telegraph, the Mail and elsewhere. Kevin also gave our thoughts on summer schools to the Guardian and finally, Mary wrote a blog about the Government’s recent behaviour towards the profession for today’s Schools Week.
Week Ending 29/5/2020
The coverage this week continued to be extensive both in national and regional media. The NEUs message of schools not returning until it is safe to do so was the main message.
Overall, there were 8,211 NEU mentions across print and broadcast this week. This is more than double all other UK education unions combined. This week’s press releases are available here.
Last Sunday saw a double-page spread in the Mirror, centering an open letter from 1,000 NEU heads calling on the Prime Minister to take action on school safety. We also wrote a letter to the Sunday Times.
We responded quickly to the Prime Minister’s decision on Thursday to go ahead with June 1 openings, quoted by Press Association, Reach papers, The Economist, and Schools Week. We also responded to the same day’s report from Independent SAGE – see the story in the Guardian.
Morning Star and Left Foot Forward reported on new ONS data on trade union membership and our 20,000 increase since lockdown began. We also signed a joint letter from More than a Score on safety in early years settings and schools, which you can read about in Nursery World.
We published two surveys – one conducted last week with special school members, and another from the start of the week which garnered 4,000 responses from nursery and primary members. Read the TES report on the latter.
Week Ending 22/5/2020
Picking up from where we left off last week, Friday continued with Kevin across all BBC local radio bulletins throughout the afternoon ahead of his meeting with the Government’s scientific advisers. He was also clipped on national stations, including the BBC channels and TalkRadio, LBC and many other independents. We then had more of the same after the meeting, with early evening news dominated by our line that questions remained unanswered. This was also picked up by the Daily Telegraph, TES, Schools Week, Press Association, Evening Standard, ITV News, Daily Mail and Daily Express. Mary spoke live to Channel 4 News in a debate with Steve Chalke of Oasis, and Kevin spoke with LBC. A representative of the BMA was on Radio 4’s Any Questions, strongly supporting our position, as did his deputy on 5Live.
News of the BMA’s move to support the NEU’s five tests was reported widely in the newspapers on Saturday, including Metro, Evening Standard, BBC News, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, FT, Independent, the I and the Guardian. It was useful as a counter to the comments of Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield, who suggested unions and Government should ‘stop squabbling’. On that we featured in breakfast radio and TV bulletins, as well as stories in most of the same papers again. Kevin appeared on BBC Breakfast for the second morning running, to discuss his meeting with scientists. This interview was then clipped on radio and TV bulletins for the rest of the day. He then dida further live interview for BBC News Channel reacting to the Education Secretary’s early evening press briefing at Downing Street. This too was fed into local and nation bulletins throughout the night, and his additional comments in our press release made their way into Schools Week, Press Association, Independent, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail. Niamh Sweeney spoke with 5Live during a live late-night discussion.
For the second Sunday in succession the NEU was prominent in many morning headlines, carrying over discussion of Gavin Williamson’s comments from the day before. We also featured in stories about Michael Gove’s assurances to Andrew Marr’s viewers that schools will be safe on 1 June. Backlash against the BMA’s support of our five tests featured in many papers, as reporters grappled with the debate over international evidence for school openings.
An IFS report, published Monday, showed that poorer families are less likely to want to send their children back to school prematurely. We were quoted on this story by the Press Association, Metro, the I, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Sky News and ITV News. Kevin appeared on a roundtable discussion about school openings on Good Morning Britain, which also featured former education secretary Alan Johnson and was chaired by Piers Morgan. Meanwhile, Mary joined the panel on Jeremy Vine’s TV show to discuss whether it is safe for wider opening. Johnson was also heard on LBC that morning defending the NEU – “If unions don’t seek assurances from Government, then who else have parents got?”
Our checklist for primary reps was widely covered going into Tuesday, with stories in the Guardian, TES, the I, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. We also featured in Evening Standard and Financial Times reports on several councils making the decision to not re-open schools on 1 June. Amanda Martin spoke live to a dozen BBC local radio stations throughout the morning, and Mary was again featured on Channel 4 News. By that time the Government had made soundings they were softening their line on 1 June openings, and the NEU featured again in evening reports for the Daily Mail, Metro, Independent and Guardian. Stephen Bush of the New Statesman also weighed in with a column about the enormous logistical challenges facing schools.
The Wednesday headlines included reports that more than a dozen councils are refusing to open schools more widely – we were quoted in stories in the Daily Mail, Press Association, Daily Express, Financial Times and at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson was bounced by the Leader of the Opposition into committing to a fully functioning track and trace system being in place by 1 June. Our reaction was quoted by TES and Daily Telegraph, in which we said we had had no private assurances to this effect. Rosamund McNeil spoke to Vanessa Feltz’s breakfast show about the need for a plan to ensure schools are truly safe before a wider opening. We were again quoted on Channel 4 News.
By Thursday morning it was evident the Government had accepted its 1 June target was now on the rocks. A Times poll of local authorities showed a clear split on opening intentions, and we were quoted in stories about that as well as track and trace in Financial Times, Press Association, Morning Star, Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express and BBC News. Radio coverage continued with many NEU contributions to live discussions. Our letter to employers setting out their legal responsibilities to staff, was picked up by FE Week, Schools Week and the Daily Mail.
On Friday morning the TUC voiced its disappointment that Gavin Williamson has failed to heed calls for a taskgroup – Mary commented in the Guardian story. We anticipate a lot of coverage today when the SAGE advice on schools is released. Mary is also scheduled to appear on Radio 4’s Any Questions from 8pm.
This week we saw many, many cases of local NEU representatives speaking to their regional stations and local press, as they do every day. This has been an enormous team effort to get our messages out there, and we are grateful to you all.
Week Ending 15/5/2020
It has been another very busy news week for the Union.
On Saturday, our President was clipped across BBC Radio news bulletins on the TUC letter. This included Radio 4’s The World at One and Radio 1.
Sunday brought the Prime Minister’s statement to the nation, signalling changes to lockdown measures. The initial comment from the NEU, which branded the plans ‘reckless’, was quoted across 10pm bulletins on all BBC Radio and Mary appeared live on R4’s PM very soon after the Downing Street broadcast. Our quick work to consult members resulted in stronger headline presence at midnight on all stations and throughout the night.
Mary was quoted everywhere in the press on Monday, thanks to getting quoted in an early Press Association story. She was also quoted in the Daily Mail, the I, the Independent, Schools Week, TES, the Independent, Daily Express, Evening Standard and the Daily Mirror. Our ‘reckless’ line continued into breakfast radio bulletins – not just all local BBC stations, but Radio 2 (the biggest listening figure at that time), 5 Live, Radio 4’s Today, and many independent radio stations thanks to a recorded interview for LBC. Kevin appeared on Sky News discussing our concerns with presenter Kay Burley, and this was clipped during the day. Mary spoke to ITN which resulted in her being in the Channel 4 News report at 7pm.
On Tuesday morning Kevin was across many independent local radio bulletins with the findings of our snapshot survey from Sunday night. Our president spoke to 5 Live Breakfast and many local stations, Kevin was again on Sky News bulletins, and Mary spoke live to Victoria Derbyshire on BBC News Channel. In the papers we were quoted in Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Evening Standard, Metro, the Independent, the I, Daily Express, Schools Week, Daily Telegraph, FT and Guardian. Our ‘reckless’ line remained in radio bulletins throughout the day. Our parents poll, conducted last week, was picked up by Press Association towards the end of the day, and the day ended with education unions being in the opening script for Newsnight as a prelude to a lengthy report on schools.
Our parents poll was quoted widely in Wednesday headline – Press Association pick up was considerable in local press. Kevin’s support of Jon Richards on Twitter and the prospect of resisting unsafe school openings was quoted in the Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, Metro, FT, Daily Express, and the Independent. Kevin spoke to This Morning on ITV, our President with Nick Ferrari on LBC (clipped all day), and we remained in bulletins on Radio 2. Our email to members was quoted at Grant Shapps for reaction during a breakfast interview on Sky News. The joint statement of nine TUC-affiliated union with members working in education settings, advising Government to ‘step back’, was widely reported during the evening: Press Association, Schools Week, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, the I, the Independent, Metro, Guardian, national BBC Radio bulletins at 6pm and 10pm, and all local BBC Radio stations during the night. Finally, our joint statement with UCU and GMB on behalf of college workers was quoted by TES, and Mary was quoted in the same paper about the shambolic appearance of the DfE’s Chief Scientific Adviser Osama Rahman in front of the Commons Science and Technology Committee.
Mary spoke to the Today Programme on Thursday morning, and this was picked up by the Daily Mail, the I, TES, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph and Press Association. And when interviewed on Sky News Breakfast on Thursday, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Steve Reed said that Government should “listen to the National Education Union and to parents”. The eight-union statement continued to appear in radio bulletins far and wide, as did reports on the Rahman committee appearance.
Friday brought two breakfast TV appearances for Kevin, on Good Morning Britain and BBC Breakfast. He was speaking ahead of a meeting with the Government’s scientists.
Week Ending 8/5/2020
It was another busy week with further speculation on the re-opening of schools continuing to simmer. Sunday’s Press Association story travelled widely. We were also in the Guardian and Daily Mail. Mary spoke to the I during the week, which was also picked up in the Daily Mirror. There were also NEU voices in this extended Observer piece.
There was a major statement from BIGTU this week. A letter was sent on behalf of the ten British and Irish education unions affiliated to Education International, warning of a ‘very real risk of creating a spike in the transmission of the virus’ if schools are opened prematurely. Story in Schools Week, Press Association and Education Executive.
The Education Policy Institute weighed in to the debate with a ‘catch up plan’ for disadvantaged pupils during lockdown. Read our comment here. We were quoted in the Metro story, as well as Schools Week, TES and Morning Star.
We joined forces with Parentkind when they backed our 5 Tests for Government. Together we wrote to Gavin Williamson and this was reported by TES. Parentkind’s latest survey of a quarter of a million parents, released today, can be found here.
Kevin spoke to LBC about our weekend survey of members’ experience of school life under lockdown. This exposed a deep concern about the effectiveness of social distancing at present in schools. Read the results here. It was also reported by BBC News and TES.
There was also a Sutton Trust report on the cancellation of A-Levels and what this means for university applications. We released a comment here.
Week Ending 1/5/2020
A Reach news agency story appeared on Saturday covering speculation as to how and when schools will re-open. The NEU was quoted as saying “loose talk costs lives”. This was widely picked up in local press (example here).
In response to Dominic Raab’s comments on Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show that schools opening without social distancing measures would be ‘inconceivable’, Mary told TES it was premature to be talking about opening schools when various other criteria are not being met. We were also quoted in the Daily Mirror story and by the Reach agency. Later in the week we spoke to the Financial Times (£).
Cabinet ministers have made a more strenuous effort in recent days to play down talk of summer openings. Gavin Williamson was very clear on the matter when grilled by the Education Select Committee on Wednesday and we welcomed this in our press release (also the BBC story and the Sun). We were less warm towards Amanda Spielman’s appearance on Monday (the I), and Robert Halfon’s suggestion of recruiting an ‘army of volunteers’ to help in schools (TES).
An increase in the proportion of vulnerable children attending school was noted this week – we provided comment in the Press Association story, arguing this was the consequence of schools working hard to reach out to parents and raise awareness of available support.
Andrew Adonis’s unhelpful remarks about education during the outbreak were rebutted by Mary on Twitter. The TES included her comments in their story.
Finally, on the subject of school closures the TES released the findings of a survey of 17,000 school staff about how they view schools reopening. Mary was quoted in both stories (here and here) and Press Association later picked it up for wider distribution.
There was also a tremendous legal win for two of our members against the Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust. Read more about it here. And Kevin spoke to Schools Week about the DfE wasting £50,000 trying to cover up failings in the vetting of an academy chief.
Finally, we marked International Workers Memorial Day with this column from Mary for the Morning Star.
Week Ending 24/4/2020
After a month in which schools have continued to open for the children of key workers and the most vulnerable pupils, the Government has at last announced testing for teachers, school staff, as well as those who are self-isolating. The announcement was made during Thursday’s Downing Street briefing, and we were quick to comment and this was picked up by TES, Schools Week, Guardian and Morning Star.
Last Sunday’s front pages went big on the possibility of schools re-opening as early as May 11. Michael Gove and Gavin Williamson both tried to play down these rumours, but it was another example of the media being used as a platform for continued and unhelpful speculation. The NEU continued to emphasise the importance of a clear strategy based on scientific advice before Government proceeds to even partial re-openings. Kevin was quoted in the BBC story, the Financial Times and by the Reach news agency. Meanwhile, Mary featured in LBC bulletins, and the NEU also spoke to talkRadio on Monday and Friday about the same issue.
We welcomed Sunday’s announcement that the most disadvantaged pupils will be supported with the availability of free laptops, touchpads and routers to ensure their learning can continue online. Mary was quoted in the Guardian report.
This week the Department for Education published the figures for the numbers of pupils attending school since the general closure on 20 March. It shows that attendance soon settled to approximately 1%. We commented on the reasons behind this, and why not just school staff but parents need proper assurances from Government before returning children to school. Kevin was quoted in the Sun and Daily Mail. Our 175k-signature petition was mentioned in the Sun story, the Observer, and a column in the Daily Telegraph.
The plight of supply teachers during the pandemic was reported on by the TES where Kevin was quoted.
Mary spoke to the I newspaper about whether Government can ever return to its ‘exams only’ mantra having conceded the value of teacher assessment. She developed this theme in her comments for a TES article about the decisions Ofqual will have to make about this year’s exams. These remarks were further picked up by the Daily Mail.
Kevin and Mary both signed a joint letter to the Guardian about the need to scrap Universal Credit’s two-child limit and the benefit cap. Read it here.
Mary has written a number of blogs in the past week or so. First came Schools Week on the strategy needed to take schools out of lockdown, then SecEd on what education needs to look like in the months ahead. Finally, her column for TES takes on the somewhat belated concern of right-wing commentators and ministers who are only now showing concern for the poorest in our society. Please read and share.
Week Ending 17/4/2020
Week Ending 10/4/2020
There were a number of articles carrying NEU advice and concerns across a wide range of media outlets about the importance of keeping school staff safe both physically when in school and also staying safe online with remote learning
The excellent NEU parents site launched this week was well received in the media and on social media (BBC)
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 Week, TES, SecEd, Morning 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, SecEd, Education 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 Guardian, the 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 BBC, Schools 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 Today, Money 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.
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.
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:
5 March: Independent
6 March: The Daily Telegraph