National NEU Weekly Update

Week Ending 26/6/2020

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.

We reacted to the Sutton Trust report on nurseries, released Wednesday. Our comment was picked up in the Morning Star.

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 MailBBC 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.

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 TESSchools WeekDaily Mail, Daily ExpressMorning 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 GuardianDaily 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.

An NFER study of remote learning under Coronavirus was published on Tuesday. We commented here and this was picked up in reports by TES and Politics Home.

We announced our Summer Holiday Local Offer proposals on Thursday. The press release and pdf document can be found here. Stories appeared in TES, the Daily Mirror and Children and Young People Now.

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 NewsPress AssociationDaily MailEvening StandardSky NewsTES GuardianIndependent 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 SunEvening StandardBBCDaily MailMetro, 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 TESChildren and Young People NowDaily MirrorMorning StarGuardian 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 GuardianDaily TelegraphTES 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 Independentthe IDaily ExpressDaily MailSchools WeekTESMorning StarWestern MailReach 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 IndependentMorning 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 Newsthe IChildren 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 papersThe 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.

Today our petition to only open schools when it is safe to do so reached 350,000 signatures. This includes almost 10,000 head teachers – a remarkable figure. Read more here. TES reported it 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.

The Public Accounts Committee published an important report on the damage caused by Government failings in SEND provision. Read our reaction here. We were quoted in the Guardian.

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.

Data on ‘at risk’ children during the Coronavirus outbreak was released late last week – we released a full reaction, and this was picked up by TES.

Uncertainty for supply staff was the subject of a letter from the joint general secretaries to Gavin Williamson this week. Read it here, and the exclusive TES report here.

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 TESSchools WeekGuardian 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

The national website is being updated regularly with advice and guidance to members. This can be accessed here. It also contains a link to the website with resources for parents.

The Joint General Secretaries wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this week on the need to see the evidence on which the Government will base their decision to fully re-open schools. You will be aware of much unhelpful speculation about re-opening schools, which is concerning to members who would be at immediate risk if the Government was too hasty in relaxing lock down measures. An accompanying NEU petition – which says that schools should only reopen when it is safe to do so – has attracted over 83,000 signatures in three days. Please share the petition with your networks and ask them to sign up if they haven’t already.

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

Schools offer to stay open until 9.30pm to support key workers

Teachers warned against live-streaming lessons

The Other Frontline – Inside The Classrooms Still Operating Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic

The call from the NEU and others to ensure free school meals were available over Easter and the Governments subsequent agreement was also reported both in national and regional media (MirrorBBC).

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 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